The first same-sex Jewish partnership ceremony officially to be termed a marriage by Liberal Judaism – a major British progressive strand of the religion – took place in Manchester last weekend.
Liberal Jewish Community members Jeffrey Levine and Roman Hunter-Fox exchanged vows, a ketubah and rings under a chuppah at the city’s Lowry Hotel.
As reported in the Jewish Chronicle, both men performed the traditional glass-breaking, while specially written shevah brachot (seven blessings) were made, including the phrase “Blessed is God that you cause loving companions to rejoice together”, to replace the traditional blessing for a bride and groom.
This was not the UK’s first same-sex ceremony under a chuppah, but it was the first time Liberal Judaism has sanctioned the use of the terms “ketubot” and “marriage” in this scenario.
The ceremony was the first since Liberal Judaism’s rabbinic conference in April, which agreed to treat same-sex ceremonies as proper marriages following its introduction of a same-sex blessing ceremonies in 2005.
The move pre-empts legal changes to the Equality Act currently under consultation by the government. Same-sex marriages are still not legal in the UK, but Liberal Judaism has joined other religious denominations to pressure the government to allow gay marriages in places of worship.
Mr Levine, 45, who is from Belfast and grew up in an Orthodox community said: “Outside Liberal Judaism, your spouse is not really welcomed as much as a straight Jewish wife.”
He added: “We wanted to have a proper Jewish wedding with God as our witness. We were very serious about our vows and living a Jewish life.”
Rabbi Mark Solomon, who performed the ceremony, said: “Liberal Judaism has seen society move on in marriage equality and we have made the decision to function as if the law has changed.
“Jeff and Roman have contributed much to our community and we are delighted that we have been able to provide them with a place where they can both celebrate their Judaism and (in Roman’s case) return to their Jewish heritage. We all wish them Mazal tov! and all the best for their future together – and hope the law will catch up with full marriage equality very soon.”
Couples will still require an additional civil partnership ceremony until the law is changed, but Liberal Judaism has already decided to begin keeping central marriage records.