Thursday, 10 May 2012

Same sex marriage and weddings

I have heard it said from official Quaker quarters that we should not call a same sex union a 'marriage' or call the ceremony a 'wedding'. This includes not using the words on the certificate. (NB: it seems that this was a misunderstanding, and hopefully the revised marriage procedure which treats everyone as equally as we possibly can under the law and uses the terms 'wedding' and 'marriage' for all will be accepte3d at Yearly Meeting next week. However, my own feelings in what follows still stand.)

It seems to me that Quakers have got so caught up in legal procedure and respectability that we have forgotten our heritage.

The original purpose of a Quaker marriage certificate was to provide public recognition of the act of marriage. It was signed by everyone present to give legal weight to the public declaration by showing that it was witnessed by lots of people. The certificate could be presented by the meeting to a magistrate to show that the couple’s children were not bastards and that they could hold property together and bequeath it to them, and so subvert the challenges of disaffected relatives.

We need to go back to our radical roots and actively demonstrate total equality by using exactly the same language on our marriage certificates irrespective of the sex of the couple. These means calling it a marriage and calling the ceremony a wedding, since there are no better words available.

It took a 100 years before there was implicit recognition of Quaker marriages in law (Lord Hardwicke's Marriage Act 1753), and nearly another 100 years before there was explicit recognition (Marriage Act 1836). It will hopefully not take as long for full equality in marriage to be recognised in law, but in the meantime we should boldly witness to full equality for Quaker marriage in our meetings for worship, and leave the civil partnership legislation to it's own devices.


Unknown said...

Yes indeed Gordon - I'm with Mr. Eastwood when he says the following...

*N.B. this link leads to a quote that uses the "F" word which I think is justified on this occaision and entirely appropriate, but please don't click here:

Gordon Ferguson said...

I am pleased to see that the proposed revision of Quaker Faith and Practice to allow for same sex marriages is to go before Yearly Meeting at the end of the month, with full equality and the vagaries of the Civil Partnership law kept out of the way.