Quakers in Britain have issued a statement welcoming the opportunity to register their premises for civil partnerships from next week.
The Equality Act 2010 included a section that allowed civil partnerships to be held on religious premises in England and Wales, if a faith group wishes.
Draft regulations will come into effect on 5 December 2011.
“Quakers are keen to hold civil partnerships in our meeting houses and we hope to work with these regulations,” said Paul Parker, Recording Clerk for Quakers in Britain.
In the light of their commitment to equality, in 2009 at their Yearly Meeting (the annual assembly with supreme decision-making authority for Quakers in Britain) Quakers recognised unions of same sex couples as marriages.
“However,” explains Paul Parker, “we specify that such couples must have a civil partnership as we recognise such marriages are not recognised by the state as lawful at the present time. Thus we have encouraged and welcomed this ability to register civil partnerships on our own premises.“
In 1753 Quakers were given the right to conduct marriages in England and Wales. “We welcome and cherish this privilege,” Parker added.
Unlike some other Christian and religious groups, Quakers, known formally as the Religious Society of Friends, recognise same sex unions as equal to opposite sex ones.
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 political change.
Quaker marriage is not open to all, but is for members and those who, while not in formal membership, are in unity with the religious nature and witness of the Society of Friends.
Each Quaker Area Meeting appoints suitable members as registering officers who are present at the solemnisation of a marriage at a meeting for worship. They ensure that marriages are prepared, celebrated, witnessed, reported to the state, and legally valid. Quaker meetings do not have clergy.