West London Synagogue are hoping to hold the first same-sex wedding ceremony in a British shul within hours of the law change coming into effect on 29 March.
The Government announced this week that gay weddings can take place in England and Wales from 29 March next year, several months earlier than had been expected. West London Synagogue’s Rabbi David Mitchell said interest had been expressed by five gay couples already in civil partnerships – one female and four male – in being among the first to tie the knot at the shul. WLS are hoping to hold the first ceremony after Shabbat on the 29th, with further ceremonies on Sunday and over the next week.
However, it appears those in civil partnerships may have to wait to tie the knot beyond that first day.
“This is a landmark moment. We are really excited about offering this opportunity,” said Rabbi Mitchell, who with his partner Ian will be among the celebrating couples.
“We had a Jewish ceremony in 2005 then civil partnership on the first day it was legalised that year. This is the opportunity to close the circle and act on the final piece of legislation that has previously been denied to us.”
He said the community had been caught unawares in terms of the first day being a Saturday, preventing them from being able to do a full day of ceremonies “every hour on the hour” as was hoped. “The fact the first day is a Shabbat is a slight spanner in the works but nothing we can’t get around.” He invited both those already in civil partnerships and those just getting engaged to come forward if they’d like to be among the first ceremonies.
In the wake of the Government’s announcement, Liberal Judaism has launched a search for the first same sex couples to marry under a chuppah in their shuls.
Leaders of Liberal and Reform Judaism have been at the forefront of pushing for a law change but the United Synagogue, the UK’s biggest synagogal movement, opposed the move in a submission from the Beth Din and Rabbinical Council to a national consultation. Religious organisations will not be compelled to hold same-sex ceremonies under the law that passed its final parliamentary hurdle in July.
A Liberal Judaism statement said: “We are proud to have been part of this historic fight for justice right from the start, working closely with Unitarians and Quakers in Britain, and later, with the Movement for Reform Judaism.
“We’ve had a lot of interest over the years from same-sex Jewish couples wishing to get married. Many of them have entered into civil partnerships, some of which we expect to be converted into marriages accompanied by a beautiful Liberal Jewish chuppah ceremony. Since this has been a long-awaited and historic fight for justice, we would love to celebrate the first truly equal Jewish same-sex marriage as soon as the law allows.”
If you’re in a committed same sex Jewish relationship and would like to tie the knot under the Liberal Judaism chuppah, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.