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British Quakers Request Religious Freedom to Support Marriage Equality

Timothy Kincaid

July 31st, 2009

The National Organization for Marriage is right. Gay marriage IS a religious freedom issue. They’ve just identified the wrong party as victim.

Currently in the US, and much of the Western World, there are churches that devoutly believe that their faith calls for same-sex couples to enter into marriage, protected by family, conducted by church, and supported by state. Other churches do not think that chruch or state should recognize same-sex marriages.

Governments have taken sides.

They have declared that because some churches don’t wish to sanctify marriages, that therefore the state will not recognize the marriages conducted by other churches. Even the most casual glance will reveal that behind every argument against marriage equality is one theme, an argument that is never absent and which never takes a back seat to any secular claims: “I demand that the state endorse and enforce my anti-gay religious beliefs about marriage.”

Any rational person will see this for what it is: state sponsored religious preference of one church over another. In the restriction of marriage equality, it is not only same-sex couples who have lost their rights; churches have as well. But, for a number of reasons, this is seldom a part of the argument.

Now the Quakers (the Society of Friends) in Britain are highlighting this injustice. (BBC)

One of the UK’s oldest Christian denominations – the Quakers – looks set to extend marriage services to same-sex couples at their yearly meeting later.

The society has already held religious blessings for same-sex couples who have had a civil partnership ceremony.

But agreeing to perform gay marriages, which are currently not allowed under civil law, could bring the Quakers into conflict with the government.

In the UK, same-sex civil partnerships are called “marriages” in the press and in conversation, but there is one very peculiar restriction that sets these unions apart from truly being marriages: churches are barred from conducting marriage civil partnerships or allowing them on their premises. Civil Unions must be held in a civic space like a hall and there can be no religious component.

This is not acceptable to Quakers.

The Quakers – also known as The Religious Society of Friends – are likely to reach consensus on the issue of gay marriage without a vote at their annual gathering in York on Friday.

They will also formally ask the government to change the law to allow gay people to marry.

Often those who oppose equality speak in aggreived tones of a need to protect religious freedom. It will be interesting to see how anti-gay activists respond to this plea by devout Christians for a right to practice their faith.



July 31st, 2009 | LINK

Wow. That’s a really odd wrinkle on things. What in the hell was the reasoning behind that? Has it really been enforced?

Priya Lynn
July 31st, 2009 | LINK

I’m shaking my head in disbelief. It amazes me that they would bar churches from conducting marriages or allowing them on their premises. Also stunningly ironic that despite the anti-gays false claims that their freedom of religion is being violated it is actually the pro-gay churches whose freedom of religion is being violated.

July 31st, 2009 | LINK

The ban is on performing a civil, legal ceremony in temples, rather than a purely religious ceremony. If it were on the latter the British government would be in breach of article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The issue for Quakers is that by being unable to perform the civil ceremony we’re unable to treat same-sex couples the same as opposite sex ones – gay couples HAVE to have two ceremonies. Most divorcees have to have two separate ceremonies, however that decision is purely up to the religious order, it’s not a legal requirement.

July 31st, 2009 | LINK

We in the United Church of Christ have been making the point that OUR religious liberty and the religious liberty of other gay affirming churches/synagogues/temples are the ONLY faith groups that have EVER been denied “freedom of religion and expression? in this whole same-sex marriage debate.

No one has told conservative churches that they have to marry people they don’t want to. They deny marriage to all kinds of couples and NO ONE has even threatened to deny them the right to do so. But churches like mine are specifically told by the government that we can’t marry certain members and certain couples in our church family. The government is directly impinging on the expression of our religious beliefs that all people are created equal and deserving of full civil, human and spiritual equal rights.

August 1st, 2009 | LINK

Quakers (unformed silent service) are wonderful.

“It will be interesting to see how anti-gay activists respond to this plea by devout Christians for a right to practice their faith.”

Here in Canada the anti-gay activists write bitter tirades against the United Church of Canada: they call it a “pseudo-Christian cult empty of biblical Christian theological content.” Other LGBT-affirming faith communities fare even worse. So, what else is new?

Christopher Waldrop
August 3rd, 2009 | LINK

Zeke said, “No one has told conservative churches that they have to marry people they don’t want to.” And this is exactly the issue. Many conservative churches have insisted, contrary to the facts, that their rights are somehow threatened by same-sex marriage, and that they will be “forced” to perform such marriages.

How many times does it have to be pointed out to them that they won’t be forced to perform any marriage they don’t want to before they’ll finally admit it? Maybe same-sex marriage will have to be legalized before those conservative churches will stop lying.

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