To further complicate matters, kiddushin is a transaction between a woman and a man—so for Jewish same-sex couples looking to wed, the classic marriage model is not even available.
So, then what? What do you do you're getting married, but you don't want to—or can't—get married using traditional kiddushin? And what do you do if you're committed enough to the Jewish tradition that the legal framework in which it exists matters to you?
For those who believe, as I do, that rituals do things, there's a certain alchemy to the fact that a dunk in the ritual bath can transform a non-Jew into a Jew, that lighting two candles can, palpably and viscerally, bring in the Sabbath. There's a certain danger to mucking around with the source code, with the ways in which a religious tradition has been refined over hundreds or even thousands of years to bring us as close as possible to the sacred. Taking ritual alchemy seriously means that it might not work to slap any old thing together in place of these ancient mechanisms for binding two people to each other. And taking LGBT relationships seriously means finding a way for same-sex nuptials to have the same heft and substance that we assume straight weddings to have.
Fortunately, a few possibilities have emerged over the last 20 or so years that address the twin problems of feminist and queer weddings simultaneously, with varying degrees of dialogue with Jewish law. One way to sacralize the values of equality and egalitarianism is to make sure that weddings don’t require any particular gender to perform specific symbolic roles. (Of course, there are a wide range of gendered customs embedded in the traditional Jewish ceremony, so any couple who chooses to have the bride circle the groom or the butch cover the femme’s face with a veil has those resources available.)
Some of the ceremonies that feminist and queer Jews have been using in place of traditional kiddushin involve a declaration of commitment in the form of a formal oath to God. Rachel Adler, in her landmark book Engendering Judaism, looked to the laws surrounding business partnerships to create a ceremony in which two lovers bind themselves together, legally, as partners. Some people argue that both parties can acquire one another, so it’s an egalitarian, bilateral exchange. Another approach—my personal favorite—looks to a loophole in the Talmud to suggest that there’s a way, coherent within Jewish law, for a couple to get married “in the manner of kiddushin,” without actually invoking kiddushin and its acquisition—so it doesn’t require heterosexual partners, or the husband’s permission to divorce.
Ultimately, the last of these is how my partner and I got married. Rather than him handing me a ring (the "money" in the acquisition) and declaring, "Behold you are consecrated to me," we exchanged rings and both said, "Behold, you are made special to me," using a Hebrew word that connotes both specialness or uniqueness and togetherness. We also took pains to explain what was happening in our wedding handouts and reworked the language in our ketubah, our wedding contract, so that it, too, reflected the marriage we intended to have.