Quakers in Britain have welcomed the government’s announcement, today, 17 February, that civil partnerships will be allowed to be celebrated on some religious premises, if a faith group wishes. This was introduced as part of the Equality Act 2010, section 202.
The equalities minister, Lynne Featherstone has revealed that the government will consult on the reform of marriage laws in England and Wales. This implies that the government may go further than implementing the Equality Act 2010.
“Over the last few months I have spoken to a lot of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people and campaign groups and it became clear there is a real desire to address the differences between civil marriage and civil partnerships,” said Lynne Featherstone. “We are going to be the first British government to formally look at what steps can be taken to address this.”
Michael Hutchinson, Acting Recording Clerk for Quakers in Britain said: “We are delighted that the government has heard us and others. We ourselves see no distinction between heterosexual or homosexual in terms of commitment and wish to move further to allow legal marriage for same sex couples, but this is a welcome step along the way to full equality.”
“We are also heartened by proposals to address calls for full equality of civil marriages and civil partnerships, as our religious experience leads us to seek a change in the law so that same sex marriages can be celebrated, witnessed and reported to the state in the same way as heterosexual marriages.”
Speaking on the Moral Maze on BBC Radio 4 last night, Quaker parliamentary liaison secretary Michael Bartlet said: “I think for Quakers marriage is about a loving commitment recognised within our worshipping community and in the presence of our friends and in the presence of God, about a commitment made between two people long lasting and wholehearted commitment. And the nature and quality of that love is far more important than the race, gender, sexuality, or colour of someone’s skin.”
Government equalities office page: http://sta.geo.useconnect.co.uk/news/religious_buildings.aspx
Helen Drewery, general secretary of Quaker Peace & Social Witness, on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=roHUELTW64Y