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News release - Quakers, Liberal Judaism and Unitarians welcome equal marriage consultation

London, 15th March 2012

Representatives from Quakers in Britain, Liberal Judaism and the Unitarian and Free Christian Churches welcome the announcement today of the Government Consultation to consider how to make civil marriage available to same-sex couples.

Quakers in Britain, Unitarians and Liberal Judaism have long campaigned for equality in marriage because of their deeply held beliefs in equality and justice.

The three faith communities, recently joined by the Movement for Reform Judaism, are seeking a permissive law which allows religious liberty and have no wish to impose their understanding of what is right on those of a different understanding.

The ban on holding civil partnerships on religious premises was overturned by the Equality Act and the Unitarians were the first to register a religious place of worship, Cross Street Chapel in Manchester, for registration of civil partnerships after the new regulations came into effect in December.

Derek McAuley, Chief Officer of the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christians said: “The hosting of civil partnerships in our churches and chapels is a step towards our ultimate goal of full equality for lesbian and gay people. Our stance refutes the simplistic argument that people of faith and rights for LGBT people are necessarily in conflict. Unitarians will look in detail at the consultation paper and respond on the basis of our long-term commitment to inclusion.”

Quakers say they too are keen to respond to the Consultation. At their Yearly Meeting in York in 2009, Quakers in Britain 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, without further process, in the same way as opposite sex marriages are celebrated in Quaker meetings.

 “Quakers believe marriage is a celebration of the committed union of two people who have found love for each other,” Says Paul Parker, Recording Clerk for Quakers in Britain. “We can see no reason, religious or otherwise, why marriage and civil partnership should not be equally available to all our couples who wish to register their commitment in Quaker meeting houses.”

Rabbi Aaron Goldstein, Co-Chair of Liberal Judaism’s Rabbinic Conference, said: “Thankfully, morality in our society continues to progress. Some of society's institutions, religions in particular, have a far slower rate of progression. Previously that might have been acceptable because religions held a unique 'authority' over their flocks. This is not so today. Where religion and civil society intersect, Government should support those of faith who are at the vanguard of change, who do so with integrity out of religious and intellectual conscience, without compelling those who wish to currently demur. That is why today Liberal Judaism is seeking Equal Marriage.”

Ends

Notes to the editor

  • Quakers are known formally as the Religious Society of Friends. Around 23,000 people attend nearly 475 Quaker meetings in Britain. Their commitment to equality, justice, peace, simplicity and truth challenges them to seek positive social and legislative change.
  • The General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches represents the 170 communities in Great Britain. Unitarianism is a progressive and liberal religious movement which grew out of the Radical Reformation and is now open to insights from all faiths and philosophies. In 1977 Unitarians affirmed that their Ministry is open to all regardless of sex, race, colour or sexual orientation and expressed their abhorrence of discrimination solely on the basis of sexual orientation.
  • Liberal Judaism - one of the three major strands of Judaism in the UK with over 30 congregations and 10,000 members across the country - seeks to make Jewish life relevant to the modern world.  Liberal Judaism believes in the equality of each individual, regardless of race, gender or sexuality.  We apply this belief in practice, with support for mixed-faith and same-sex relationships. Liberal Jewish men and women have equality of opportunity in all aspects of religious life, including practice and education.

Media contact Alexandra Ben-Yehuda, 07793 209 865 / Alexandra@liberaljudaism.org