Emanuel makes history with same-sex wedding

L’chaim! Dr Kerryn Phelps (left) kissing her wife Jackie Stricker-Phelps after the ceremony at Emanuel Synagogue last week. Photo: Same Love Photography

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.