British Quakers agree to same-sex marriage

Pioneering decision to open up religious marriage to gay couples; Challenge to government ban on same-sex marriage

August 04, 2009

LONDON — "The vote by the Quakers to open up marriage to same-sex couples, on exactly the same basis as heterosexual couples, is an honourable, courageous, trail-blazing decision," said gay human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell of LGBT equality group OutRage!

He was commenting on the British Quakers' ground-breaking decision in favour of marriage equality, taken at their annual meeting in York, England, on Friday.

"It exposes the homophobia of other faiths that refuse to recognise love and commitment between couples of the same sex, and it specifically exposes their denial of religious marriage to same-sex couples," added Mr Tatchell.

"This decision will create a major dilemma for the government. Will it block recognition of lesbian and gay marriages performed by the Quakers?

"If it refuses to recognise Quaker same-sex marriages, the government will provoke a confrontation with religious bodies. It will effectively over-ride their religious authority and independence, and shore up homophobic discrimination.

"It would send entirely the wrong signal if Gordon Brown's government sided with homophobic, discriminatory religious leaders against marriage equality for same-sex couples.

"This commitment to equal marriage rights gives new expression to the Quakers long-standing commitment to equality for lesbian and gay people.

"Civil partnerships are not equal. They are second best. They reinforce and extend discrimination. Just as same-sex couples are banned from civil marriage, opposite sex couples are banned from civil partnerships. Two wrongs don't make a right. Both civil marriage and civil partnerships should be open to gay and straight couples, without discrimination," said Mr Tatchell.

The Quakers voted 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."

Quaker same-sex marriages will now be "prepared, celebrated, witnessed, recorded and reported to the state in the same way as opposite-sex marriages".

Symon Hill, associate director of the Christian think-tank Ekklesia, himself a Quaker, said "I trust this decision will inspire people of all faiths and who are working for the inclusion of gay, lesbian and bisexual people".

He added: "As with other churches, this has not been an easy process for Quakers. I hope that others will have the courage to follow this lead and speak up for the radical inclusivity of Christ. As Christians, we are called to stand with those on the margins who are denied equality". – Issued by Peter Tatchell - Outrage!

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