The Quakers, also known as the Religious Society of Friends in Britain, have gone public with their concern that same-sex couples who are converting their civil partnerships to marriages in England and Wales will only be able to do that via register offices and not by a church wedding.
Churches in the UK register the marriages they perform with the government and the Quakers want to be able to perform their members’ same-sex marriages just as they do for opposite-sex Quaker couples.
Instead, if the government’s plans go ahead, from 10 December this year couples in civil partnerships who convert those to marriages will be issued ‘certificates of conversion,’ by register offices instead of marriage certificates and that is the only mechanism that has been provided for that to occur.
The Quakers would like to perform those marriages in their churches instead and issue certificates to those couples and then register them with the government as they do with heterosexual marriages.
‘This is more than a formality for those in civil partnerships,’ Quakers recording clerk Paul Parker said.
‘It is deeply unfair that Quaker couples are denied their opportunity to celebrate their long-term loving relationships in their worshiping community.’
Quakers in Britain welcomed the law passed last year enabling same-sex couples in England and Wales to marry and they still eagerly anticipate the day when all Quaker marriages can be celebrated, recorded, and reported to the state in exactly the same way.
However when the law came into force in March, the process of drafting secondary legislation left those already in civil partnerships out of the celebrations.
Draft regulations for the government’s plans around civil partnerships and marriage were published this week and will be before the House of Lords on Tuesday 29 July and the Quakers hope that changes can be made to allow their churches to be part of the conversion process when people in civil partnerships become married.
The Quakers were one of the earliest Christian churches in the world to become LGBTI affirming and they have a long history of campaigning for LGBTI people’s rights.