Paul Parker, recording clerk of Quakers in Britain, was interviewed on the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 on Wednesday 04/07 2012 about equal marriage. Here is what he said:
“Quakers have been talking about issues about sexuality for decades. In 2009 we heard stories from same sex couples and opposite sex couples talking about their committed partnerships, their unions, and we saw very clearly that there’s no difference between a relationship between a man and a woman and a same sex relationship which makes the same commitment and for us that’s a religious commitment in a Quaker Meeting House in the Quaker community that that couple worship in.
We saw no reason why that shouldn’t be recognised in exactly the same way as other marriages so we’re calling for the law to catch up really with something that we already recognise.
I think that there’s a risk that people end up feeling that religious groups en bloc are against same sex couples completely and that’s not the case. What we’re seeing it as is a case of religious freedom. We’re not seeking to impose it on other religious groups who aren’t ready to do it or are unwilling to do it but we do want that freedom to be able to do what we see as the right thing.
Quakers see the marriage as something that is God’s work and we just witness to in our Quaker community. Civil partnership is a legal contract and not a spiritual one, that’s really why we’re looking for the law to catch up with us. We really don’t acknowledge that there’s a distinction between two types of couples. We want everyone to be able to have the same experience both legally and on the day.
I think we would say they are [on the same level]. If somebody makes that level of commitment and I think the issue of children by the way is a red herring because for a long time we’ve accepted that people who are too old to have children can marry. Then really we need to stop seeing it as a distinction.”
Paul’s comments came ahead of a meeting on the same day for religious organisations and individuals backing same-sex marriage, hosted by Yvette Cooper, shadow home secretary and minister for women and equalities. Quakers in Britain wish to allow same-sex couples to marry in religious premises.
Paul’s words are from the Today programme, accessible here in the week after broadcast: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01kbhjk/Today_04_07_2012/. (Listen from 1hr 14m to 1hr 19m approx.)