A gay couple in Winnipeg has tied the knot in what is believed to be a first in Canada: a same-sex marriage performed at a conservative synagogue.
Arthur Blankstein and Kenneth Ure were married Saturday evening in a ceremony at the Shaarey Zedek synagogue, which is one of the oldest in Western Canada and is known for its strong ties to tradition.
"I think it's a wonderful moment, but it's especially a wonderful moment because the people involved are long-time dedicated people who have been married under civil law here in Canada since 2004," associate rabbi Larry Pinsker told CBC News.
Before the wedding, Blankstein said the event will be historic but it will also be like any other marriage ceremony.
"There's nothing like being in a room full of family and friends and declaring to everybody that you love another person and that's the person you want to live with," he said.
Blankstein and his partner were married in a civil ceremony eight years ago and were looking forward to a religious ceremony.
"I'm pleased that we are making history. Because somebody has to do it," Blankstein said.
"I'm going to have the same apprehension I had eight years ago as to whether I'm doing the right thing. But I'm also going to have the same joy."
Commitment ceremonies 'not sufficient'
Pinsker said the traditional ceremony shows the couple's commitment to each other and their community of faith.
Orthodox synagogues do not acknowledge gay marriage. Reform synagogues endorse it and conservative synagogues like Shaarey Zedek fall in the middle.
Pinsker said in the past, the conservative Jewish moment only allowed for "commitment ceremonies" for gay couples.
"The rabbi of our congregation determined that this was not sufficient and it represented a discrimination," he said.
Shaarey Zedek executive director Ian Staniloff said attitudes are changing, especially towards the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered (GLBT) community.
"We wanted to display to our GLBT members, and we would be naive to think we wouldn't have any, that this is a warm welcoming affirming community," Staniloff said.