JACKIE Stricker-Phelps had the Jewish wedding she always dreamed of last week when, for the first time since the legalisation of same-sex marriage in Australia, two women stood under a chuppah at the Emanuel Synagogue in Sydney.
“It was pretty much what I wanted since I was a little girl,” Stricker-Phelps, who renewed her vows to wife Dr Kerryn Phelps, told The AJN.
“I always wanted to get married in a synagogue with a rabbi and that was what I grew up expecting would happen, until I realised that I was gay and I was obviously quite distressed when I realised that I could not get married.”
Sticker said being married by Rabbi Jeffrey Kamins surrounded by family and friends was the “closing of a circle”.
Her grandmother was a member of the shule, her parents were married there and other members of the family all celebrated simchas at Emanuel.
“I was the only family member that hadn’t had a ceremony there and it was incredibly meaningful to stand under the chuppah there.”
The landmark event came two decades after Stricker-Phelps and Phelps first had a Jewish wedding ceremony in a New York apartment, accompanied by just a rabbi and two friends. At the time, same-sex marriage was not legally recognised in New York.
“It was lovely, but I felt sad that I had to come back here [to Australia] and not be married in my own country,” Stricker-Phelps recalled.
“When we were first outed in 1998, it was the first time anyone had mentioned same-sex-marriage and the media coverage was historically unprecedented.”
In 2011, when same-sex marriage became legal in New York, the pioneering marriage equality campaigners returned to the city for a civil ceremony.
That meant that when the same-sex marriage legislation was passed in Australia at the end of last year, the pair were considered legally married here as well.
Nonetheless, the couple wanted to renew their vows, and thank Rabbi Kamins and the congregation for their support, by having a ceremony 20 years after they first stood under a chuppah.
Rabbi Kamins told The AJN that after 20 years of fighting for marriage equality, and conducting many commitment ceremonies in accordance with Australian law, it was an “honour and a privilege” to officiate at the first Jewish same-sex marriage allowed under Australian law.
“As religious leaders, we do not see any contradiction between marriage equality and freedom of religion,” Rabbi Kamins said.