A senior US Reform rabbi has welcomed progress from the Conservative faction of American Judaism after it approved guidelines for performing same-sex weddings last week.

Last week, the Rabbinical Assembly’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards (CJLS) ruled unanimously in favour of same sex marriage, and has provided material for those officiating at same-sex ceremonies.

Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, said this was a step forward for the Rabbinical Assembly in recognising that all people are created in ‘the image of the Divine’, and should be treated with equal dignity and respect.

“The Reform Movement’s experience sanctifying same-sex marriage has made it absolutely clear that, like heterosexual couples, gay, bisexual, and lesbian men and women find happiness and strength in the holiness of their relationships,” he said.

“That holiness is reflected in stronger ties to God and to their Jewish faith, both of which the Rabbinical Assembly has now helped further.”

Reform Judaism has supported officiation at gay weddings ceremonies since 2000, with equal marriage rights being backed by Liberal Judaism, Unitarians and the Quakers.

The official Conservative position is similar to the ‘separate but equal’ system of civil partnerships in UK law: “We acknowledge that [same-sex] 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.”

Despite this move towards equality, there is still regulation imposed on marriage ceremonies in the faith – Conservative rabbis cannot preside at the marriage of a Jew to a non-Jew, between same-sex or heterosexual couples.

Conservative Judaism lifted the ban on gay ordination in 2006.