Openly gay conservative MP Mike Freer hosted the first ever Jewish LGBT event in the UK, which was held in Parliament on December 2.
Keshet UK, a social activism group, held the event in place in celebration of the legalization of marriage equality in the UK, meaning that by 2014, Liberal and Reform synagogues will be performing their first legal same-sex marriages. The event also perfectly coincided with the Jewish festival of Hanukkah.
Speaking to the Rabbis, activists and MPs attending the event, Freer said, “Looking in from the outside as a non-Jew, since the big debates over same-sex marriage in the past year I’ve personally seen a sea change of attitude in the Jewish community. Changing the law will really change the lives of gay Jews.”
Although not Jewish himself, event host Freer is a member of the Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI), and was titled 99th of the top 100 most powerful influences on the Jewish community in “The Jewish Chronicle.”
He also won the Parliamentary Speech of the Year at the PinkNews Awards in October for his contribution to the same-sex marriage debate.
The publisher of PinkNews, Benjamin Cohen, who also co-founded Keshet UK spoke to PinkNews about the event, saying: “This event held in the heart of the British establishment has shown that gay Jews have finally come out of the shadows. The support that Keshet UK has received from across the Jewish community, including from the Orthodox section, shows that being gay is no longer a bar to Jewish communal life.”
The first openly gay rabbi, Lionel Blue, claimed that the event was a “modern miracle, Chanukah is a festival of wonder, tonight is truly a moment of wonder.”
However, despite Liberal and Reform Judaism’s full support of marriage equality and intent to hold ceremonies next year, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the largest Jewish organization in not only Britain but all of Europe, are not so supportive. The United Synagogue have no intention of holding same-sex weddings within their community and strongly oppose any form of legally recognized gay unions, whether civil or marriage.