Is There Not a Better Way to Say That? Same-sex Marriage vs. “Abomination Marriage”

A shopping excursion yesterday took me to the Five Towns, to one of the very large Kosher supermarkets off Rockaway Turnpike. No, it’s not like Queens lacks places to shop for Kosher items. I know. But I had some time, and decided to take a little ride.

As I was standing on the check-out line, I noticed that the store had installed closed-circuit flat screen TV’s above each check-out line, so that as you’re waiting (and waiting) for the line to move, you can watch ads from local kosher services that choose to advertise in the store.

Fair enough.

But these closed-circuit TV’s had a news crawl at the bottom of the screen while the ads were playing, a la CNN or MSNBC, and it was produced with the title “News from the Yeshiva World.” That got my attention. What information do they want you to get when you’re waiting on a check-out line?

Judging from the news items that were appearing in the crawl, I don’t think they were talking about the local co-ed Yeshivas in and around the Five Towns, but rather what might, sociologically speaking, be called the “black hat” Yeshiva world. That was, as I saw it, the general nature of the announcements.

So as I’m standing there reading the scrawl, up comes an item with this headline (this is not an exact quote, but it’s very, very close). “Action alert! Toeivah marriages come up for vote today… call your state Senators and Assemblymen!”

I must admit that it took me a minute or two to figure out what they were talking about, but then it hit me.

The bill proposing the legalization of same-sex marriage in New York State was up for a vote in the State Senate yesterday, and the crawl item was urging people in that community to lobby their elected representatives to vote against the bill (which lost, by the way).

But rather than refer to the bill as one on “same sex marriage,” the author(s) of the crawl item chose to use the word from Leviticus used to describe same-sex unions between men- toeivah. In English, it means an “abomination.” So the crawl was really saying “Abomination marriages come up for a vote today…”

I have no trouble at all understanding that there are people who are not only ambivalent, but seriously troubled by and opposed to the legalization of same-sex marriage, whether here in New York or anywhere else. It is not a small issue, particularly for people who regard the Torah’s antipathy for it as having been revealed on Sinai, and therefore a timeless truth.

But I do have an issue- a very big issue- with referring to it as an “abomination marriage,” and blaring that across a screen at a check-out counter. (Perhaps my issue is with the store as much as it is with the author of the crawl item).

I can’t help but wonder… Can a person living in 2009 really be quite so deaf and blind to those in the gay and lesbian community as to continue to (publicly!) refer to their desire for a consecrated relationship as an “abomination marriage?”

Be opposed, if you wish to be, all day and all night. But is there no room for acknowledging that the people involved in these relationships are human beings, and not “them?” Do those who wrote that scrawl item not know any people in their community who are gay or lesbian, and if they don’t, do they know why they don’t? Could it be because admitting to being gay or lesbian in the ultra- Orthodox community often leaves one no options for living a meaningful or gratifying Jewish life?

Maybe they should show the movie Trembling Before God on those closed-circuit TV’s instead of “News from the Yeshiva World.” That would surely get people’s attention on the check-out line…

About the Author
Rabbi Gerald C. Skolnik is the Rabbi Emeritus of the Forest Hills Jewish Center in Queens.