Representatives from Quakers in Britain, Liberal Judaism and the Unitarian and Free Christian Churches welcomed the announcement last week of the government consultation to consider how to make civil marriage available to same-sex couples.
Quakers in Britain, Unitarians and Liberal Judaism have long campaigned for equality in marriage because of their deeply held beliefs in equality and justice.
The three faith communities, recently joined by the Movement for Reform Judaism, are seeking a permissive law which allows religious liberty and have no wish to impose their understanding of what is right on those of a different understanding.
The ban on holding civil partnerships on religious premises was overturned by the Equality Act and the Unitarians were the first to register a religious place of worship, Cross Street Chapel in Manchester, for registration of civil partnerships after the new regulations came into effect in December.
Derek McAuley, chief officer of the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christians said: “The hosting of civil partnerships in our churches and chapels is a step towards our ultimate goal of full equality for lesbian and gay people. Our stance refutes the simplistic argument that people of faith and rights for LGBT people are necessarily in conflict. Unitarians will look in detail at the consultation paper and respond on the basis of our long-term commitment to inclusion.”
Quakers are keen to respond to the consultation too. At their Yearly Meeting in York in 2009, Quakers in Britain sought a change in the law so that same sex marriages can be prepared, celebrated, witnessed, reported to the state, and recognised as legally valid, without further process, in the same way as opposite sex marriages are celebrated in Quaker meetings.
“Quakers believe marriage is a celebration of the committed union of two people who have found love for each other,” explained Paul Parker, recording clerk for Quakers in Britain. “We can see no reason, religious or otherwise, why marriage and civil partnership should not be equally available to all our couples who wish to register their commitment in Quaker meeting houses.”
Rabbi Aaron Goldstein, co-chair of Liberal Judaism’s Rabbinic Conference, said: “Thankfully, morality in our society continues to progress. Some of society’s institutions, religions in particular, have a far slower rate of progression. Previously that might have been acceptable because religions held a unique ‘authority’ over their flocks. This is not so today. Where religion and civil society intersect, government should support those of faith who are at the vanguard of change, who do so with integrity out of religious and intellectual conscience, without compelling those who wish to currently demur. That is why today Liberal Judaism is seeking Equal Marriage.”