Gay couples may be able to wed in synagogue

Gay couples may soon be able to marry legally in both Reform and Liberal synagogues under proposed changes to marriage laws.

Same-sex couples are expected to be given the right to hold legal civil
partnership ceremonies in places of worship.

The move would enable non-Orthodox communities to hold a wedding under a chuppah, and immediately follow it with a civil ceremony in a shul.

Liberal Judaism, Quakers and gay rights groups, led the pressure on the government to offer greater equality.

Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone's proposals were due to be put out to consultation this week.

Rabbi Danny Rich, Liberal Judaism chief executive, said: "We can see no good reason why synagogues should not be able to carry out a civil ceremony the same way we would for a same-sex partnership."

Currently a gay couple can have a ceremony under a chuppah in a Liberal shul, but also need to have a separate civil partnership at a non-religious venue.

Rabbi Colin Eimer, who chaired a working party on the issue for the Assembly of Reform Rabbis, said communities had been considering the way forward for more than 12 years.

"We have a range of services for heterosexual couples and we believe same-sex couples should have the same opportunities.

"It is uncharted territory but we are feeling our way forward, being as inclusive as we can be and recognising the diversity of modern relationships."

Last updated: 1:50pm, February 17 2011