As a follow up to our session on same-sex marriage in Bournemouth, here is the full text of the epistle. If there are any questions points of clarification please contact Maurice Nagington on firstname.lastname@example.org or 07739966197:
“Young Friends General Meeting is a group for Quakers (The Religious Society of Friends) aged 18 to about 30. It has existed for the past 100 years and currently provides fellowship and support for approximately 200 young adult Quakers.
As Quakers we aim for the starting point in all that we do to be equality. In relation to marriage we feel that the state should not be precluding same-sex couples from civil marriage. We therefore welcome the proposals that the government has made as the first steps towards marriage equality.
Although this consultation is focused on civil marriage we feel it is important to understand where marriage fits into our religious life. Our community supports same-sex and opposite-sex couples, and membership in our community forms an important part of their lives as individuals and couples. In addition, religious forms of marriage are seen by many in our community to be a deeply significant part of their relationships. Therefore, as a religious society, we are disappointed that the state is proposing to continue to impinge on a national decision by Quakers in 2009 to support and celebrate marriages between same-sex couples in the same way as we do for opposite sex couples. We are grateful to be able to recognise and report marriages in our community in accordance with our beliefs and value this ability. However, we strongly feel that preventing Quakers from reporting marriages to the state for same-sex couples is fundamentally unfair and goes against our religious liberty, conscience and commitment to equality. Similarly we feel that precluding opposite-sex couples from civil partnerships represents a parallel inequality.
We recognise that there are people and religious groups who have different ideas and beliefs. We are not trying to enforce our views on others and do not wish to compel other religions to act against their conscience. However we believe that all religions should have the right to perform same-sex marriages should they so wish.
We feel that maintaining separate legislation for recognising same-sex and opposite-sex partnerships will perpetuate inequality in our society and we believe that to be consistent the government should open marriage and civil partnerships to all couples. As a religious society we feel we are moving towards recognising a wide range of relationships where genuine tenderness, openness and love are the basis for committed relationships and that decisions around terminology such as ‘civil partnerships’ and ‘marriage’ may be better left to couples rather than the state.
Signed on behalf of Young Friend’s General Meeting,
Sally Nicholls and Ian Goggin (co-clerks)