In a move to unify their stance on marriages between two men or two women, the British Yearly Meeting of Quakers have had long discussions about their practice and beliefs. In the UK although people of the same sex can partner legally, marriage is reserved for opposite-sex couples.
According the British Yearly Meeting blog a minute has been put forward to extend fully equal treatment of same-sex couples–to recognize AND record these marriages, even if it means defying the law.
We therefore ask Meeting for Sufferings to take steps to put this leading into practice and to arrange for a draft revision of the relevant sections of Quaker faith and practice, so that same sex marriages can be prepared, celebrated, witnessed, recorded and reported to the state, as opposite sex marriages are. We also ask Meeting for Sufferings to engage with our governments to seek a change in the relevant laws so that same sex marriages notified in this way can be recognised as legally valid, without further process, in the same way as opposite sex marriages celebrated in our meetings. We will not at this time require our registering officers to act contrary to the law, but understand that the law does not preclude them from playing a central role in the celebration and recording of same sex marriages.
The BBC has reported this story here although they don’t have the story quite right. Jacobus Rex, a gay Christian Quaker friend in Wales wrote on my Facebook wall,
I’m not sure that the article is entirely accurate. One of the men from my meeting is on the Meeting for Sufferings that was looking at this in advance of Yearly Meeting. I believe that, though pushing for a change in legislation was considered by them, they decided not to advise the Yearly Meeting to do that. I believe that YM will rather be discussing making changes to Quaker Faith and Practice (Friends’ book of discipline) so that committed relationships of same- or mixed-sex couples are referred to with parity throughout.
This will not be the first time British Quakers stirred up the marriage waters or took on the gay issue. Early on in the late 1700s Quakers refuse to get married by priests of the established church. In regards to homosexuality, British Quakers issued strong supportive statements as early as 1963 with the publication of Towards a Quaker View of Sex, “which affirmed that gender or sexual orientation were unimportant in a judgement of an intimate relationship and that the true criterion was the presence of ‘selfless love'”
Hat tip to UK friends Auntie Doris and Rob Hunt for greeting me this morning on Facebook with this announcement (and Heidi who would have posted it if Anna hadn’t beaten her to the punch.)