While he would have preferred to have wed in his home country of Israel, Elad Strohmayer decided to marry his boyfriend in Philadelphia.
"It's no coincidence that's it's called the City of Brotherly Love," Strohmayer said.
Strohmayer, 31, deputy consul general of Israel to the Mid-Atlantic region, married his boyfriend, Oren Ben-Yosef, 42, at a ceremony at City Hall Thursday afternoon. Mayor Michael Nutter will officiate the civil service alongside Rabbi Michael Beals of Congregation Beth Shalom in Wilmington, DE.
Strohmayer said that while Israel is liberal and open to LGBT rights, the country's neighbors aren't so welcoming.
"Israel is an island of democracy and human rights in this very, very tough neighborhood in this very, very conservative region that really persecutes anyone that is different," he said. "And this is why I think it's great symbolism that two Israeli people are getting married in the city that is the origin of the American Revolution. The origin of the values of liberty, freedom, pursuit of happiness."
Homosexuality is illegal in both Gaza and West Bank, under the control of the Palestinian Authority.
"Gay people are persecuted, and mistreated and need to flee from their houses because a lot of them have been abandoned by their families and their families want to murder them," he said.
Both men, who met in Israel in June, are Israeli citizens who have been living in Philadelphia for the duration of Strohmayer’s appointment at the Consulate. He's been here since 2012.
Strohmayer said there are thousands of stories about gay Palestinians seeking refuge in places like Israel, "Because they are afraid for their lives."
"And that serves as a huge contrast of what human rights is all about," he said. "When we talk about human rights we need to look at all of the aspects of human life and in Israel, if you are an Israeli citizen, then no matter what is your origin, what is your ethnic origin, what is your religion, you enjoy these human rights and the state of Israel will recognize gay marriage even if it's not Jewish, it doesn't matter. If you are a citizen of Israel, it will recognize your marriage if it's done lawfully."
The laws on marriage
In Israel, marriage can only be conducted by religious leaders, and an Orthodox Jew won't marry gay couples, so their marriage cannot be conducted on native soil. But Israel does recognize any marriage conducted lawfully outside the country.
"The decision to get married was like any other couple," Elad said. "We just want to be married. It's a right that we think is reserved for every human being, whether he is gay or straight, and we're just happy there is an opportunity to do it while we're here."
The two were engaged during the Israel Technology conference in October at Drexel University. At a reception afterward, Nutter said he could officiate the wedding.
Jennifer Crandall, Nutter's deputy press secretary, said since the law was overturned last year, Nutter has presided over 15 to 20 gay marriage ceremonies.