Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) Joins Federal Lawsuit Challenging North Carolina’s Same-Sex Marriage Ban
Suit Claims State’s Ban Violates First Amendment
(New York, NY) June 4, 2014 – The Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) joined as plaintiff in a pending Federal District Court lawsuit challenging North Carolina’s same-sex marriage ban. Among the suit’s charges is that North Carolina’s ban on same-sex marriage restricts the rights of individuals to freely practice their religion and therefore violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.
As it stands, North Carolina law makes it illegal for rabbis, priests, ministers and other religious officials to solemnize the marriage of same-sex couples on an equal basis with opposite sex couples without fear of criminal prosecution and civil penalty.
“This precludes rabbis from participating in one of the fundamental aspects of our Jewish religious traditions with respect to a specific segment of their congregations and communities,” said Rabbi Steven Fox, Chief Executive of the CCAR. “Depriving rabbis of the freedom to conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies in North Carolina stigmatizes our religious beliefs and relegates many of our congregants and community members to second-class status.”
The CCAR went on record supporting full civil rights for gays and lesbians in 1993 and, in 1996, the CCAR articulated its support for fully equal civil rights, including marriage, for gay and lesbian couples, and its opposition to governmental efforts to ban gay and lesbian marriage. In 2000, the CCAR passed a resolution entitling Jewish same-sex couples to affirmation through Jewish ritual and supporting rabbinic members who choose to officiate at rituals of marriage for same-sex couples. Today the CCAR provides its members with educational and liturgical resources related to same-sex marriage ceremonies, such as pre-marital counseling, marital vows and wedding rituals.
Commenting on the organization’s commitment to civil rights, Rabbi Richard Block, CCAR President and Senior Rabbi, The Temple – Tifereth Israel, Beachwood, Ohio said: “The CCAR’s support for full civil and religious rights for gays and lesbians is based on the Torah’s assertion that every person is created in God’s image and deserves dignity, equality and respect. We have joined this lawsuit to protect the right of all persons to fully and freely practice their religion as guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution.”
With more than 2,000 rabbis in the US, Canada and beyond, the CCAR is the largest Jewish rabbinic movement in North America and represents an estimated 1.5 million Jews worldwide.
About the CCAR
The Central Conference of American Rabbis is the rabbinic leadership organization of Reform Judaism, with more than 2,000 rabbis leading Jews in all walks of life from congregations to community settings, including schools, colleges and universities, Hillels, hospitals and the military. Founded in 1889, it is the oldest and largest rabbinic organization in North America. The CCAR projects a powerful voice in the religious life of Jewish communities in North American and worldwide, and provides invaluable resources to the Reform Movement and the broader Jewish world. The CCAR has a rich history of providing professional and personal support to Reform rabbis, affording opportunities for study, professional development and spiritual growth, beginning while they are still in seminary, through mid-careers, and into retirement. The CCAR is uniquely positioned to meet the ongoing needs of its nearly 2,000 member rabbis (virtually the entire Reform rabbinate) and the entire Reform Jewish community. For more information please visit the CCAR’s website at http://ccarnet.org/.