Happy anniversary! Landmark decision on marriage celebrated
This week marks 10 years since Quakers in Britain decided to campaign for same-sex marriage so that marriages of all committed Quaker couples be prepared, celebrated, witnessed, recorded and reported to the state.
The decision, made at Yearly Meeting in York, followed more than sixty years of discussion, including a book published in 1963, “Towards a Quaker View of Sex". A week of careful discernment laid doubt aside.
The decision was a significant step for churches in Britain. Media around the world reported it, from the BBC, Sky TV and Channel 4, Press Association and Reuters, national and regional press and radio, to the Irish Times, China Daily and the New Zealand Herald.
We are all born equal and our love is equal too- Paul Parker, Recording Clerk
Quakers were given the right to conduct marriages in England and Wales in 1753. Before then case law recognised the validity of Quaker marriages. The first meetings for commitment for same-sex couples were in 1996.
The minute of Yearly Meeting in York recorded, "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."
Much quiet political work was undertaken as Quakers challenged the government. For Quakers, this was an issue of religious freedom. Because Quakers see all people of equal worth, Paul Parker, Recording Clerk was led to say, "We are all born equal and our love is equal too".
Joyfully, the Equalities Act of 2010, followed by the Marriage (Same Sex Couples Act) of 2013 meant that same-sex marriages became possible in 2014 in March in England and Wales and then in December 2014 in Scotland.
Today one fifth of Quaker marriages are of same-sex couples.
Quaker marriage is for members and those who, while not in formal membership, are in unity with the religious nature and witness of Quakers in Britain.
A Quaker marriage is like any other Quaker meeting, based on silence and takes place during a specially arranged meeting for worship. The couple take each other as partners in a lifelong commitment to faithfulness and love. Each makes the same declaration, using these words:
"Friends, I take this my friend, [name], to be my spouse*, promising, through divine assistance [or "with God's help"], to be unto him/her/[commonly used name] a loving and faithful spouse*, so long as we both on earth shall live." *The word 'spouse' may be replaced by 'wife', 'husband' or 'partner in marriage'.