Maybe it really is always sunny in Philadelphia – the mayor of the city of brotherly love will marry a high-ranking Israeli diplomat with his partner in a religious-civic ceremony.
Elad Strohmyer, Deputy Consul General of Israel in Philadelphia and his partner Oren Ben-Joseph will be married at the Philadelphia City Hall this week in a ceremony led by Mayor of Philadelphia Michael Nutter and conservative Rabbi Michael Bills.
Gay marriage has been legal in Pennsylvania since May 2014 and is accepted by reform and Conservative Jews.
The ceremony will be held in the official reception hall at Philadelphia's city hall and will be attended by senior leaders of the LGBT community in the city.
"It's a big honor for me to get married in the city that has been my home for the past three years and in which I represent Israel," said Strohmyer. "The fact that the local media and the leadership of the community is expressing great interest and will come to the wedding is really moving and also enables us to expose another facet of Israel that is not usually displayed in world media. Through our wedding that has been awarded with a high media profile we are adding another important element of representing Israel other than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."
Strohmyer met his partner during a gay pride event in Tel Aviv last June when he was on vacation in Israel. "We realized very fast that this (was serious) and he joined me in the US," added Strohmyer.
In October, during an Israeli technology conference in Philadelphia that was organized by the Consul General of Israel in the city in conjunction with Chemi Peres – who led a delegation of 15 Israeli technology companies – the two got engaged.
Philadelphia Mayor Nutter had been at the conference and after hearing of the story he immediately offered to marry the two Israelis.
Nutter followed suit with his promise and the event was scheduled for this Thursday. The ceremony will gather 150 guests, including friends and family who will travel to Philadelphia from Israel especially for the wedding.
Local media in Philadelphia will also cover the ceremony as the mayor has only married three same-sex couples since the law enabling LGBT marriage was passed in Pennsylvania – this is the first time Nutter will conduct the matrimonial ceremony for a diplomat.
"It is important for us to represent the pluralistic side of Israel, a liberal country that has progressive legislation on the subject of the rights of the proud community. We hope our wedding will be an example for many additional couples and will help advance civil and same-sex marriages in Israel," added Ben-Joseph. "I have worked in the tech industry for 18 years and in recent years I've held a central position at Microsoft, and I see the difference in the acceptance of LGBT employees from 18 years ago and today. I have full faith that we will continue to move forward until we advance to full equality of rights in Israel."
The Foreign Ministry recognizes same-sex couples and is considered to have a liberal approach on the topic. In the Foreign Ministry itself, spouses of same sex couples are listed as "official" spouses.
Strohmyer has been the Deputy Consul General of Israeli in Philadelphia since the summer of 2012, after serving as the deputy ambassador of Israel in Angola for two years. He also represented Israel at the "Gay Games" in Cleveland in the summer of 2014 and won the gold medal in sailing.