Israeli Diplomat to Marry Same-Sex Partner at Philadelphia City Hall

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Elad Strohmayer, Israel’s deputy consul general to the mid-Atlantic region, and his partner, Oren Ben-Yosef, are set to be wed by Mayor Michael Nutter at City Hall on Thursday.

 

Mayor Michael Nutter was scheduled to preside over the marriage of Elad Strohmayer, Israel’s deputy consul general to the mid-Atlantic region, and his partner in a ceremony at Phila­delphia’s City Hall this week.
 
For Nutter, it was to be his first time marrying non-U.S. citizens, according to his press secretary. He was set to co-officiate Thursday afternoon alongside Rabbi Michael Beals of Congregation Beth Shalom, a Conservative synagogue in Wilmington, Del.
 
Strohmayer cited Nutter’s “excellent work to promote Israeli and LGBT interests in Philadelphia” as one of the reasons he was so excited to have the mayor presiding over the wedding, which he called a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
 
The 33-year-old said the wedding was to include the traditional elements of a Jewish wedding — a chupah, ketubah and breaking of the glass.
 
The Israeli diplomat, who has held his position at the consulate since 2012, said he met his partner, Oren Ben-Yosef, 42, during last year’s Gay Pride Parade in Tel Aviv.
“It was like a fairy tale, falling in love, when you know you know,” he said.“That was what triggered the decision eventually that we want to be together for the rest of our lives.”
 
Ben-Yosef, a former account executive in the tech industry who moved from Israel to Phila­delphia over Labor Day weekend to be with Strohmayer, expressed his own enthusiasm about the wedding and the local Jewish community. 
 
“I’m not nervous at all, I’m very excited, I’m very happy — this is the best thing that could have happened for myself and Elad,” Ben-Yosef said. “We really want to set an example for many other couples for love and friendship and openness.”
 
Nutter’s press secretary, Mark McDonald, said Strohmayer had approached the mayor about his wedding “some months ago” during an event. The mayor’s team had to check the legality of it all before agreeing to the decision, he said, noting that it was determined that the wedding was “doable” because Strohmayer and Ben-Yosef are considered Pennsylvania residents.
 
“It’s a great privilege for the mayor and an honor to be brought in with a new family and their desire to join together in matrimony,” McDonald said.
 
Same-sex marriages cannot be legally performed in Israel — Jewish marriages there fall under the auspices of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and must meet Jewish law according to Orthodox standards. But Israel does recognize same-sex, as well as non-Orthodox, marriages that take place elsewhere.
 
Pennsylvania legalized gay marriage on May 20, 2014, at which time a Jewish lesbian couple made history by becoming the first same-sex couple to obtain a marriage license in Philadelphia.
 
Strohmayer said his diplomatic colleagues in both Israel and the United States have been very supportive. He called Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs “the most liberal ministry of the Israeli government” and noted that it has recognized gay couples since 1995.
 
“One thing I can say as a personal wish is that one day we will be able to perform weddings in Israel, and not just be recognized,” Strohmayer said. “We got only congratulations from all spectrums of religion in Israel, from Orthodox to secular friends — everyone congratulated us.”
 
In a news release, Nancy Gilboy, president of Citizen’s Diplomacy International, said the couple’s decision to marry in Philadelphia was “an honor.”
 
“Elad’s work has encouraged an open dialogue of international human rights and diplomacy between Philadelphia and Israel,” Gilboy said, adding that Ben-Yosef is from Tel Aviv, which shares a “sister city” connection with Philadelphia that she heads from the City of Brotherly Love. 
 
Strohmayer said the tragic events that took place in France  last week were very much on the couple’s minds.
 
“Our wedding sends a strong, clear message of light and hope for gay people, for Jewish people, for the relationship between people in general,” he said. 
 
“This is what the relationship between Philadelphia and Israel is all about — freedom, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”