Quakers in Britain have welcomed the move to pass the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill at Second Reading in the House of Lords.
The Religious Society of Friends is one of a range of church and faith groups to have backed the change in England and Wales, and parallel developments in Scotland.
Others include the United Reformed Church, the Anglican Bishop of Salisbury, the Suffragan Bishop of Buckingham, Liberal Judaism, the Unitarian and Free Christian Churches, the Metropolitan Community Churches, Accepting Evangelicals, the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, Changing Attitude, Christians for Equal Marriage, Inclusive Church and the Christian think-tank Ekklesia.
One peer described the vote in the House of Lords, backing one already taken in the fully elected Commons, as “one historic step towards a better world”.
Crossbench peer Lord Dear, put forward an amendment to prevent the legislation getting a second reading. The number of those content (and supporting his amendment) were 148 and those not content (and against his amendment and for the Bill going on) were 390. The Bill now goes on to committee stage.
Juliet Prager, Deputy Recording Clerk of Quakers in Britain said: “A change in law to allow same-sex couples to marry will bring real joy to couples we know who say a civil partnership lacks spiritual expression. We welcome the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill because it is right for us; it will enrich marriage, and it will not be imposed on other faith bodies who do not yet share our view.”
“Quakers see God in everyone,” she continued. “We decided in 2009 to seek a change in the law to allow same-sex couples to marry within our worshipping communities. We’ve been waiting for the law to catch up.”
Quakers have been considering sexuality for fifty years. According to Hansard, during the two-day debate, Baroness Brinton said: “The Quakers, as ever, set the pace on this. In 1963, in their paper, Towards a Quaker View of Sex, they said: ‘Surely it is the nature and quality of a relationship that matters; one must not judge by its outward appearance but by its inner worth … We see no reason why the physical nature of a sexual act should be the criterion by which the question whether or not it is moral should be decided. An act which expresses true affection between two individuals and gives pleasure to them both, does not seem to us to be sinful by reason alone of the fact that it is homosexual.’"
Baroness Brinton continued, “Quakers see God in everyone, and all commitments to relationships as of equal worth. So I am pleased that the Quakers have said publicly that they will opt into the registration arrangements and carry out equal marriage with enthusiasm.”
The Bill passed through the Commons in a free vote with a 205 majority after 366 MPs voted in favour, with 161 MPs voting against.
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."
* Follow Quaker support for same-sex marriage on www.quaker.org.uk/equal-marriage
* Analysis: Christians divided as Lords back marriage equality bill - http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/18482