PM’s backing of religious same sex marriage welcomed

Friends welcome PM's message

Quakers have welcomed the prime minister’s decision to back the right of religious groups to host same sex marriage ceremonies.

David Cameron had earlier said that legal recognition of same sex marriage should extend only to civil ceremonies. In a surprise move last week, he suggested that faith groups should be allowed to host legally recognised same sex weddings if they wish to do so.

The change follows lobbying by Quakers and other groups, including Unitarians and Liberal and Reform Jews.

British Quakers have celebrated at least four same sex marriages since 2009, but these have not been recognised in law. The UK government has promised to legalise same sex marriage in England and Wales by 2015.

‘We see God in everyone and believe all committed loving relationships are of equal worth and should be celebrated in the same way,’ explained Paul Parker, recording clerk of Quakers in Britain. He said all Quaker couples should have the chance of ‘a spiritual celebration within their worshipping community, not just a civil partnership, which is a legal contract.’ He added: ‘Quakers greet the news we can “opt in” to equal marriage with enthusiasm, but await the details of how this will work in practice.’

Michael Wright, of Middlesbrough Meeting, is a member of the Progressive Christianity Network Britain. The Network, in a statement, also warmly welcomed the announcement: ‘The Network has overwhelmingly endorsed a request that this religious freedom be available to those who wish to exercise it. There is no desire on our part to force this on those religious groups which do not wish to celebrate same sex marriages.’

In response to the prime minister’s statement, Sharon Ferguson, of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, said ‘it felt as if Christmas had come early’.

The prime minister said no faith group will be forced to carry out same sex marriages against their wishes. Michael Bartlet, parliamentary liaison secretary for British Quakers, echoed this view. ‘Liberty is a two-way street,’ he said. ‘It means not just that Quakers can conduct same sex marriages in their Meeting houses but that Anglicans and Catholics have the liberty not to do so.’

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