Homosexuality and Pedophilia: False Equivalence

The Salute to Israel Parade is one of the most important events on the New York Jewish calendar. I haven’t attended in a while (as I’ve lived in Israel since the late 90’s), but my son often wears to sleep one of my old T-shirts, from the ’93 parade. For those of you who don’t remember, that’s the year the LGBT Congregation Beth Simchat Torah wanted to march, and Orthodox schools objected. You can read the details about how that went down here.

Gays like parades? Who knew!
Jerusalem Pride, 2006. Gays like parades? Who knew!

But that was in the Dark Ages, back when being pro-gay meant getting “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” passed, not repealed. We’re now in post-Marriage Equality Act New York. Surely, the most prominent picture from the parade will be that of Israel’s new American-born Member of Knesset, Dov Lipman, proudly marching–

Oh, never mind. It’s this instead, courtesy of @AmiEden, JTA:

Would the Jews who refuse to buy German cars also refuse to marry German shepherds?

But would the Jews who won’t buy German cars also refuse to marry German shepherds?

Here we go again. The great canard of equating homosexuality and pedophilia. If you march with gays, you shteig (study Torah) with pedophiles. Q.E.D.

This, of course, is a very extreme expression of a quite common comment which inevitably attaches itself, lamprey-like, to any discussion of homosexuality in traditional or social media. “If two men can marry, why not a man and a boy?” “Would you let a gay babysit your son?” “Pedophiles believe that love conquers all too!”

So let’s examine this idea. Perhaps it’s a legal argument. However, this would require the law to equate consensual and non-consensual sex, which no Western legal system does. Non-consensual sex is a crime, and minors cannot consent. (Nor can a cat or a house, for those who follow that line of “reasoning”.) As for marriage, that is a union of two individuals for many reasons, none of which is rape.

What about the religious argument? Well, that falls short as well: homosexual sex, if you define it as anal sex between males, is prohibited in the Torah (see my previous post, how-homosexuality-is-different/), but pedophilia is not. That’s not to say that Judaism endorses the idea, but it’s just not proscribed in the biblical text.

So this ends up being simply a rhetorical argument, and not a particularly compelling one. But that doesn’t mean it can’t damage people. Most obviously, of course, it hurts gays. Equating their sexual orientation to one of the most unspeakable crimes in modern society is horrific. Much of the hatred, fury and violence directed towards gays can fester only when we set it on the same level field as abducting and raping children.

Moreover, it hurts the case of religion. It is just as legitimate for a religious group to not recognize gay marriage as it is for it not to recognize intermarriage. Halakha has no framework for a Jewish man marrying a Jewish man, but it also has no framework for a Jewish man marrying a non-Jewish woman. That does not give a congregation the right to deny the legal privileges of that marriage, and many Jewish organizations have found their way to being OK with mixed families. When we try to portray that loving union as equivalent to an adult forcing himself upon a child, that makes us–and by association, our faith–look silly. You’d have to be morally blind to see the rainbow flag and think white panel van.

Yeah, I'd stay away from this one too.
Yeah, I’d stay away from this one too.

Finally, and most insidiously, this false equivalency hurts society by helping pedophiles. If the most important factors in an act of sexual congress is the gender of the participants, not their ages, then pedophiles can much more easily be classified as “troubled” individuals, rather than predators. If homosexuality is viewed as some sort of mental defect, a criminal act can be redefined as some queer compulsion, to be solved by relocation, counseling and “guidelines” of conduct, rather than investigation, adjudication and incarceration.

It’s time for this false analogy to die. Homosexuality is no more connected to pedophilia than heterosexuality is, unless we make it so. Let’s find room in that receptacle where we toss concepts like “separate but equal” and “she was asking for it” for this misbegotten equation. Let’s consign it to the dustbin of history.

About the Author
Yoseif Bloch is a rabbi who has taught at Yeshivat HaKotel, Yeshivat Har Etzion and Yeshivat Shvilei Hatorah and served as a congregational rabbi in Canada. He currently works as an editor, translator and publisher. As a blogger and podcaster, he is known as Rabbi Joe in Jerusalem.