Quakers and marriage

In 2009, the Religious Society of Friends in Britain minuted,

we are being led to treat same sex committed relationships in the same way as opposite sex marriages, reaffirming our central insight that marriage is the Lord’s work and we are but witnesses.

That means, in the way we celebrate them and recognise them. We decided to lobby government so that marriages celebrated in that way should be recognised as legally valid without further procedure.

In the Government’s current consultation on equal marriage, this is part of our submission:

Since 2009, Quakers in Britain have sought a change in the law so that same sex marriages can be prepared, celebrated, witnessed, reported to the state, and recognised as legally valid, in the same way as opposite sex marriages. Quakers consider that life-long committed relationships between a man and a man, or a woman and a woman, should be celebrated in exactly the same way as the marriage of opposite sex couples. To us, marriage is a celebration of the committed relationship of two people who have found love for each other. Our testimony to equality demands that it should be available for all committed couples who seek it.We consider that any legislation for equal marriage should include the liberty of Quakers to conduct marriages in our Meeting Houses.

We have been moving towards this position for some time. In 2007, my own area meeting minuted,

We agree that Monthly meetings should allow meetings for worship to recognise and celebrate same sex partnerships.

We would wish our meetings to be prepared, as appropriate, to work with same sex couples to prepare them for life-long commitment in the care of the Meeting.

This Monthly meeting believes that we should be sensitive to the needs of same sex couples, and, in consultation, would support them in their efforts for the law to be changed to allow such partnerships to be legally registered in the context of worship.

What of other Yearly Meetings? Friends General Conference, representing 832 congregations in North America, has provision for a marriage certificate for a gay or lesbian couple.

We are clear that it is God’s Will that we move in this way.

I rather like what Edgbaston Quakers had to say in the latest Government consultation:

The meaning of marriage as an ancient institution has changed many times in many cultures over the last several thousand years, be it religious marriage or civil marriage; indeed, until the last century the meaning of marriage in *any* culture was basically about the male partner owning the female partner as a possession, in the same way in which he owned his property, his land, and his livestock. So our contemporary culture has already redefined marriage in our own time.

In our own time, the meaning of marriage is now defined as the public commitment of two people who want to declare that their love for each other is intended to be permanent, not temporary; therefore, in a fair and equal society it is not merely only natural that the opportunity for marriage is made equally available to all regardless of age, sex, and sexual preference, but it is an *imperative*.

Some beautiful portraits.

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