Gay marriage: shuls ready

By Ray Filar, February 7, 2013
Natalie Grazin and Samantha Cohen at their brit ahava ceremony

Natalie Grazin and Samantha Cohen at their brit ahava ceremony

Gay Liberal and Reform couples are already making plans for wedding ceremonies after the House of Commons this week approved the Same-Sex Marriage Bill.

The two movements have already said they will conduct same-sex weddings if they are made legal.

Though civil partnerships have been available since 2004, the use of religious symbols, music or readings during civil same-sex services was prohibited until 2012.

The new law will mean that non-Orthodox, same-sex Jewish couples no longer have to have separate civil and religious ceremonies.

Rabbi David Mitchell of West London Synagogue had the UK’s first Jewish civil partnership with his partner Ian Kirsh. He said that although they had a Jewish ceremony, they “couldn’t have a chuppah at the time”.

Rabbi David Mitchell and Ian Kirsh

Rabbi David Mitchell and Ian Kirsh

Now, Rabbi Mitchell said: “We hopefully have the opportunity to go through a further ceremony which offers us the full legal recognitions that we deserve after 11 years together, eight of them as ‘married’.

To some, we’re not legally married, but everything about our lives suggests that we are.”

West London Synagogue, he said, was planning to hold a series of gay and lesbian weddings on the day that same-sex marriages become legal. “Ian and I will be one of the couples celebrating”, Rabbi Mitchell said.

Finchley residents Natalie Grazin and Samantha Cohen have been together for 16 years and held a brit ahava (covenant of love) ceremony in 2005. They said they “felt strongly” they had to get married before having children.

Ms Grazin explained: “It was a Jewish ceremony, with a ketubah that we’d written in Hebrew and kosher catering. Our parents stood under the chuppah with us. It was very similar to all our straight friends’ weddings but we didn’t call it a wedding, solely for halachic reasons.”

The president of the Jewish Gay and Lesbian Group (JGLG), Peggy Sherwood and her partner Alison, met at a JGLG meeting 12 years ago this week. They described their joy at the prospect of finally obtaining “full equality”.

Ms Sherwood said: “By putting your status as ‘civil partnership’ on various forms, such as insurance, you automatically ‘out’ yourself. This is absolutely not necessary and irrelevant. ”

Jim Fletcher and Martin Phillips had a civil partnership in 2007. Later that year, they cemented their union with a brit ahava, the first in the UK to be held in a Reform synagogue.

Mr Fletcher said: “In our eyes, we already are married. We have made a public declaration of commitment to each other. I think the option of gay marriage should be there so that people can make a choice.”

Last updated: 12:15pm, February 7 2013