Sydney couple Scott Whitmont and Christopher Whitmont-Stein will make Australian history this Sunday when they will hold a commitment ceremony in a Progressive Jewish synagogue with the blessing of its three rabbis.
The religious ceremony at Emanuel Synagogue will be the second celebration for the couple of nine years, who celebrate their official anniversary on 22 September in honour of their 2002 ceremony without religious or state backing.
Only a few words and rituals have been changed from the traditional orthodox wedding. Instead of the bride walking around her husband-to-be seven times, they will each walk around the other three-and-a-half times -” a demonstration of an equal relationship, Whitmont-Stein said.
Although he didn’t want to take anything away from the ceremony they held in front of dozens of friends and family six years ago, Whitmont-Stein said that when he steps under the chuppah canopy with his partner the significance of the event would hit him.
We wanted to be recognised by our community and officiated by our rabbi, that was important to us. All three rabbis are very involved and excited by the ceremony, he told Sydney Star Observer.
I converted in 2002, the rabbi I studied with and converted with [Jeffery Kammins] is officiating. Rabbi Jacqueline Ninio was one of the main people pushing this through the Progressive Rabbinical Council and she wanted to be part of this, so we waited until she got back from maternity leave so she could take part.
At the time of our ceremony six years ago we said religion and the laws could catch up. Well religion has caught up first, one more to go.
Last year the couple spoke at a forum in the synagogue to advocate for the right of same-sex couples to hold the commitment ceremonies with temple blessing.
We didn’t want to bring Orthodoxy into it, this isn’t about Orthodox bashing. The reaction was mostly positive initially and we expected to get some flak later, but that didn’t happen, Whitmont-Stein said.
GLBT Jewish group Dayenu held a dinner last Friday in honour of the couple who first met at a booksellers function at the Metro.
Friendship blossomed into romance, and the couple has felt married ever since their earlier ceremony. They have support from both their parents, who are in their 70s and 80s.
Scott was an incredibly educated man, Ivy League educated and I’d never met anybody so interesting, Whitmont-Stein said.
I never put on my best behaviour when we started going out because I never believed he’d be interested in me. I’ve evolved and our relationship has evolved because he makes me want to be a better man.
Whitmont-Stein, who has since become a registered nurse, has also taken on the ceremony organising. His partner, Whitmont, now owns a bookstore. After the ceremony they will honeymoon at Palm Cove.