By Barney Zwartz
In 2002 Scott Whitmont and Christopher Whitmont-Stephenson had a full-scale "marriage" ceremony with a Jewish celebrant and lay cantor, 148 guests, reception, speeches - "everything a wedding is", Mr Whitmont said.
Before the end of the year they will have another ceremony, smaller but more important to them because it will be recognised by Jewish religious authorities. It will be the first such ceremony in Australia.
Mr Whitmont said yesterday: "We will be kosher. We are committed to each other, we love each other, we want to live a Jewish life together."
Orthodox Judaism, like mainstream Christianity and Islam, forbids ceremonies for same-sex unions, though they may welcome homosexuals into their congregations.
But the Union for Progressive Judaism has approved "same-gender commitment ceremonies between two Jews". The Council of Progressive Rabbis will decide at its next meeting in October what form such ceremonies can take.
By December Mr Whitmont and Mr Whitmont-Stephenson will be formally united at the Temple Emanuel in Woollahra.
Fred Morgan, the chief rabbi at Temple Beth Israel in Melbourne, said: "We always welcome gays and lesbians into our community but, if we don’t acknowledge their long-term relationships, we are welcoming them with one hand and pushing them away with the other."
The main progressive Jewish bodies in the US, Britain and South Africa allowed same-sex ceremonies years ago.
Mordechai Gutnick, president of the Organisation of Rabbis of Australia, said the Orthodox rabbinate challenged the decision. "While we may and should be tolerant towards individuals, we certainly cannot sanctify something that our Bible clearly prohibits."
Nevertheless, there has been little reaction from the Jewish community. Ashley Browne, editor of the Australian Jewish News, said he expected a backlash after putting the news on the cover of its Sydney edition, but it did not happen. "There’s a sort of acceptance that, if two Jews want to commit together in some sort of ceremony, they can."
The Sydney Morning Herald