Gay Marriage: The struggle for equal rights is a Quaker one, too

Quakers first decided to seek a change in the law in 2009, and the community has fought against injustice throughout its history

Share
Related Topics

“What is life for if it isn’t to help each other?”

As a child, I must have heard my father say this a dozen times or more.  It would often be when he’d done some kindness for someone.  It was his way of saying he was pleased to be able to help. 

I was privileged to grow up in a free-thinking family.  My parents were both Quakers, socially concerned and politically liberal.  As children we were encouraged to be aware of people’s needs beyond our immediate household, and to try to look at things from different viewpoints.

In the 1970s and early 80s – during my teenage years and early twenties – I attended various Young Quaker events with discussions, workshops and practical activities.  One of the speakers I particularly remember was a gay man, probably in his 40s.

He described his search for love and finding his ‘Mr Right’.  He talked about his joy and loving commitment towards the man with whom he hoped to spend the rest of his life.  The emotions which he described seemed to me then – and now – to be the same as those sought for, and often experienced, by heterosexual couples, including now in my own marriage.

Quakers had already been expressing support for same sex relationships in the 1960s, and they continued to explore what changes were appropriate in coming years.  This willingness to explore new ideas, and seek out new truths, is part of the nature of Quakerism.

Quakers don’t have a creed or fixed set of beliefs.  Most would agree that there is ‘that of God’ within everyone, and we seek truth through listening to this ‘light’ within us.  Quakers make decisions corporately in a similar way, seeking to be led to decisions which ‘feel right’.  Thus Quaker views are not static but change over time – some might say as part of a continuing revelation.

I wasn’t at Britain Yearly Meeting – the national gathering of Quakers – in 2009 when it decided to seek a change in the law to allow same sex marriage.  When I heard, I rejoiced at the decision - and my thoughts went back to that discussion many years before…

I have always found Quakers to be wonderfully non-judgemental and open-minded when it comes to their dealings with people.  Just because Quakers want to be able to conduct same sex marriages in our Meetings for Worship – in the same way as I married over 25 years ago – it doesn’t mean we want to impose this on others.  We just want individuals and groups – religious and otherwise – to have choice.  That’s why we support the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill.

However Quakers don’t shy away from leading – and seeking to influence – decisions which will lead to fundamental changes.  And we can also be fiercely determined and single-minded when it comes to fighting for issues that we see as unjust.

Quakers led the fight to recognise and outlaw slavery.  Our respect for life and peace resulted in the formation of the Friends Ambulance Units in the two world wars.  Quakers work closely with the UN and in current conflict zones such as Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. 

The vast majority of people who want equal marriage are not Quakers, but together our voices are louder as we ‘speak truth to power’.   “What is life for,” as my father says, “If it isn’t to help each other?”

Lucy Care was the Lib Dem candidate for Derby at the last general election and is on the party's Federal Policy Committee

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: how to spell BBQ and other linguistic irregularities

John Rentoul
 

South Africa's race problem is less between black and white than between poor blacks and immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa

John Carlin
Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...