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Brief History on the Halakhic Status of Homosexual Behavior

1991 to March 1992

The committee discusses the halakhic status of homosexual behavior.

March 25, 1992

The committee votes on papers written by rabbis Brad Artson, Elliot Dorff, Reuven Kimelman, Mayer Rabinowitz, and Joel Roth. All the papers, except Rabbi Artson's, are accepted. Following the vote, the authors of the papers collaborate and produce the Consensus Statement on Homosexuality, generally establishing that gays and lesbians are welcome in congregations, but that Conservative rabbis will not perform same-sex commitment ceremonies. This consensus was passed by a vote of nineteen in favor; three against; and one abstention.

Rabbis Kassel Abelson and Avi Reisner later submit concurrence papers; Rabbi Howard Handler submits a dissent. (Concurrence and dissent papers become part of the literature on the subject but are not voted on.) 

May 19, 1993

A vote is taken on a paper written by Rabbi Abelson ruling that "avowed" homosexual rabbis not be placed in congregations by the Joint Placement Commission. The paper is approved, with thirteen voting for it and eight voting against. Another paper submitted by Rabbi Arnold Goodman rules that homosexual rabbis should be placed in congregations if they were members of the Rabbinical Assembly prior to 1992. This paper is also approved, with seven voting in favor and fourteen voting against. Rabbi Aaron Mackler writes an opinion concurring with Goodman's paper. Rabbi Ben Zion Bergman writes a dissent to Rabbi Abelson's paper.

1993 to 2003

No formal discussion on the halakhic status of homosexual behavior.

Approximately 2003

Rabbi Reuven Hammer, a past president of the Rabbinical Assembly, and Judy Yudoff, a past president of United Synagogue, request that the halakhic status of homosexual behavior be put back on the committee’s agenda.

2003 to Present

The halakhic status of homosexual behavior is discussed at two retreats, and there is discussion on initial drafts of papers submitted on the issue. The deadline for submission of the final versions of the papers is the first week in November, with a committee meeting scheduled for early December.

Material developed by JTS staff, in consultation with members of the Law Committee.