The Conservative faction of American Judaism has formally come out in support of equal marriage, nearly six years after lifting a ban on ordaining gay men and women as rabbis.

The Rabbinical Assembly’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards (CJLS) ruled unanimously, with one abstention, according to the committee chairman, Rabbi Elliot Dorff. The panel of scholars have approved two model wedding ceremonies, and also guidelines for divorce between sam-sex couples.

Conservative Judaism is the second-largest denomination of Jewish people in North America, and is seen as somewhat centrist, between liberal and traditional factions, with the Orthodox movement, generally against same-sex relationships, belonging to the latter, and Reform and Reconstructionist movements, both of which accept gay relationships, in the former.

The current position of the Conservative faction on same-sex relationships, coded in the ‘Covenant of Loving Partners,’ is as follows: “We acknowledge that these partnerships are distinct from those discussed in the Talmud as ‘according to the law of Moses and Israel,‘ but we celebrate them with the same sense of holiness and joy as that expressed in heterosexual marriages.”

As with heterosexual couples, however, a Conservative rabbi cannot preside at the marriage of a Jew to a non-Jew. Equally, the ceremonies also exclude kiddushin (sanctification), where a groom ‘acquires’ a bride by presenting her a ring, something rabbis have recently modified by allowing the couple to exchange rings, to establish equality in marriage.

Conservative Judaism lifted the ban on ordination of gay priests in December 2006.