Except where otherwise noted, minutes (and HTML formatting) were provided by Ken Rice.
SOUTH BERKSHIRE (MA): fall, 1986 endorsed Hartford's minute
MT TOBY (MA): January, 1987 Endorsed Hartford's minute, suggesting that the word "should" in the final sentence be changed to "will." [NOTE: This change was made in the minute brought to Yearly Meeting in 1987 by Connecticut Valley Quarterly Meeting.]
Excerpt of minutes: "As we come closer to a shared vision of a future that extends all the same rights to homosexual couples as are now enjoyed by heterosexual couples under the law, we must be prepared to take even what seem to be small steps to achieve this end. Our acceptance of the Hartford minute is our first step.... Our vision of marriage will not be complete until the unification of the legal and the spiritual is complete and available to all."
MINUTE FORWARDED TO NEW ENGLAND YEARLY MEETING 1987 by Connecticut Valley Quarterly Meeting as approved at its session May 3rd, 1987
At the direction of the Quarter, Meetings in Connecticut Valley Quarterly Meeting have given attention to a minute on same-gender marriage approved by Hartford Meeting in March, 1986: The Meeting affirms the goodness of committed, loving relationships and offers recognition and support to those who share this ideal and desire to enter into a permanent relationship based upon it. By tradition, the Meeting recognizes committed union in a celebration of marriage under the care of the Meeting. The same loving care and consideration will be given to both same-sex and heterosexual applicants as outlined in Faith and Practice.
While some Meetings in the Quarter have endorsed the Hartford minute, the Quarter as a whole is not in unity on any minute concerning spiritual unions under the care of the Meeting for those who cannot have a legal marriage. We are in unity, however, that this consideration has led us to deep questioning of some important spiritual matters, and we wish to share our process with the Yearly Meeting, encouraging any other Meetings who feel so led to join us in our continuing seeking.
PUTNEY (VT): March, 1988 We affirm our willingness as a Meeting to participate in celebrations of marriage, in accordance with our traditional procedures, for both opposite-sex and same-sex couples when one or both of the partners is a member of our Meeting. We intend to follow the same customary and careful process of arriving at clearness for all couples who wish to unite under our care. At every stage we intend to treat all couples with respect, care, and love.
BEACON HILL (MA): April, 1988 We, the members and attenders of Beacon Hill Monthly Meeting, affirm our belief in that of God in every person. Furthermore, we attest that this belief embraces all persons regardless of sexual orientation.
Beacon Hill affirms that all couples, including those of the same sex, have equal opportunity to be married within the framework of the meeting process. The love between these couples, as it grows, will enrich their relationship, the Meeting, and the world at large. The Meeting is committed to supporting these couples according to their needs.
Beacon Hill acknowledges the Certificate of Marriage signed by the couple and those present at the ceremony as the witness of Friends to the couples' spiritual union. Mindful that only the heterosexual couples among us currently have the right to legally sanctioned marriage and its privileges, the Meeting asks Friends, and particularly couples preparing for marriage, to examine how best to respond and bear witness to the inequalities still present in the system.
MIDDLEBURY (VT): June, 1989 We joyfully affirm our willingness as a Meeting to sanctify celebrations of marriage for both same and opposite gender couples. We intend to follow the good order of Friends in arriving at clearness for all couple who are led to unite under our loving care.
NEW HAVEN (CT): July, 1989 endorsed Hartford minute (above)
HANOVER (NH): November, 1989 Hanover Friends Meeting affirms our support of committed, loving relationships. We also affirm our willingness, as a Meeting, to celebrate marriages for all couples, whether same sex or opposite sex. We intend to follow the same customary and careful process of arriving at clearness for any couple who wishes to unite under our care in accordance with our traditional procedures. As always, we intend to consider all requests of marriage with respect, care, and love.
CAMBRIDGE (MA): February, 1990 Friends Meeting of Cambridge affirms that relationships between persons of the same sex can be as committed and holy as the heterosexual relationships that Friends have called marriage can be. Friends intend to give the same loving care and consideration to both same-sex and heterosexual relationships. We therefore welcome the opportunity to celebrate God's love made manifest in the life of a couple at a meeting for worship appointed to celebrate their union, according to the good order of Friends, whether the couple is of the same or different sex. We are not yet clear whether same-sex unions should have a different name than heterosexual unions. We recognize that our explorations of the nature of marriage have raised certain issues with respect to our clearness process, and to the Meeting's oversight for all couples under its care, including the care of a partnership's dissolution. We direct the Meeting on Ministry and Counsel and the Marriage and Family Life Committee, together with concerned Friends, to explore these issues, and as needed, to bring recommendations for action to this Meeting.
BURLINGTON (VT): May, 1990 We affirm our willingness as a Meeting to participate in celebrations of marriage for both opposite sex and same sex couples. We intend to follow the same customary and careful process of arriving at clearness for all couples who wish to unite under our care in accordance with our traditional procedures. At every stage we intend to treat all couples with respect, care, and love.
PORTLAND (ME): December, 1991 A same-gender couple seeking to come under the care of the Meeting for marriage or a celebration of commitment will be considered in the same way a heterosexual couple is.
YARMOUTH (MA) PREPARATIVE MEETING OF SANDWICH MONTHLY MEETING: May, 1992 On fifth month, 1992, Yarmouth Friends reaffirmed the minute giving the same care and concern to homosexual couples who wish to marry as we give to heterosexuals. The Meeting affirms the goodness of committed, loving relationships and offers recognition and support to those who share this ideal and desire to enter into a permanent relationship based upon it. By tradition, the Meeting recognizes committed union in a celebration of marriage under the care of the Meeting. The same loving care and consideration should be given to both same-sex and heterosexual applicants. We are led to this position not to coerce individuals into participating in the particular institution of marriage. Rather, we have come to this from our belief that all discrimination is contrary to the working of the divine and/or spirit within each of us. We affirm our belief that homosexuals are entitled to the same rights and privileges as heterosexuals. While we recognize that we cannot control the laws of the State, we can ensure that our spiritual practice does not reinforce the oppression. Realizing that approval of this concern is today unlikely, at this time we ask the other meetings of Sandwich Monthly Meeting to discuss and educate yourselves regarding this matter so that in the future we can achieve a sense of unity in our Monthly Meeting.
Further, we recommend that Friends consider the section on marriage in Faith and Practice, particularly the introduction on page 153, as well as the following quote: "Oppression in the extreme appears terrible: but oppression in more refined appearances remains to be oppression; and where the smallest degree of it is cherished it grows stronger and more extensive. To labour for a perfect redemption from this spirit of oppression is the great business of the whole family of Christ Jesus in this world." John Woolman (1763-1764)
MINUTE FROM SALEM QUARTER TO NEW ENGLAND YEARLY MEETING, AUGUST, 1992 Some meetings within Salem Quarterly Meeting have labored with the question of same gender marriage or celebrations of commitment and the pastoral care of the partners in these unions. We believe this is an important question that should be considered by other Friends' meetings in New England Yearly Meeting. Salem Quarterly Meeting is not yet unified on the subject of same gender marriage, but encourages meetings to consider a search for unity on this issue. We forward this letter and history from Beacon Hill Monthly Meeting in the hope that it will be useful in further discernment. [Note: history not included here]
LETTER FROM BEACON HILL MONTHLY MEETING We are writing to you in an effort to open a dialogue around the issue of same gender marriage. Our meeting began considering this issue about five years ago, and reached unity in support of same gender marriage after much corporate and individual searching. This process of discernment tremendously enriched our meeting by expanding our vision of community and equality. Subsequently, this unity enabled us to take under our care a marriage between two women. These experiences led us to the hope that Friends' testimony on equality would extend to the marriage of same gender couples throughout New England Yearly Meeting. Now that we have taken this marriage under our care, we are concerned that should this couple move to another meeting within New England, they would be received and cared for as would any other married couple. We have reached unity on the following minute, which we offer to your meeting for your consideration.
We acknowledge that same gender marriages and celebrations of commitment are taking place in the larger Quaker community. Should one of these couples move to our meeting, we will support their relationship as we would that of any other married couple. We bring our witness on same gender marriage to the wider Quaker community because we greatly desire that Friend unite with us in the support of these relationships. We would welcome the opportunity to provide you with more information, or visit with your meeting, should you so desire. Polly Kmetz, Clerk
Yearly Meeting approved having these minutes sent to monthly meetings for their consideration and also referred them to Yearly Meeting Ministry and Counsel for its consideration.
STORRS (CT): October 18, 1992 Minute 83. Ministry and Counsel presented a minute on same-gender relationships for consideration by the Meeting. The Meeting agreed at the outset of the discussion that it supported the basic thrust of the minute. The final version approved by the Meeting is: Background: During the winter and spring of 1991-92, Ministry and Counsel initiated and supported a committee to organize discussions on the Meeting's spiritual relationship to gay men, lesbians, and bi-sexuals. Five informational or worship sharing sessions attended by 25 to more than 30 were held at the rise of Meeting. These offered the Meeting community a rich opportunity to explore the issues and problems faced by individuals living in a homophobic society. As a result of this exploratory process we have come to understand that our concern should be for the quality of the relationship rather than for the sexual orientation of the partners. The Meeting commits itself to promoting acceptance, dignity and respect for people of same-sex orientation. Any loving relationship that honors the sacredness of each partner's life and spirit should be embraced by the Meeting. We affirm that we should support all individuals in such relationships including, but not limited to, an offering of the benefits of a public celebration of mutual commitment. It is the privilege of the couple to call their union by any name they choose. The process for publicly recognizing this union shall follow the customary procedures as outlined in Faith and Practice.
AMESBURY (MA): November, 1992 All loving relationships are sacred and should be accepted and honored by the Meeting. All couples are entitled to the ceremony of marriage following Friends' practices. The Meeting supports those marriages under its care.
BELFAST (ME): February 7, 1993 Minute on Same Sex Marriage and Commitment
Mindful that the spiritual growth of each member of a couple sometimes may best proceed, and the love between them may best ripen and mature, in the context of a marriage which takes place in a community of faith and with the support and tender regard of that community; mindful that Friends who prefer to establish lasting bonds with someone of the same gender are excluded from marriage by law and by custom; and mindful that such exclusion does violence to the spirit of those Friends, we are clear that applications by couples, whether of the same or opposite gender, to be married under the care of this meeting, shall all be given the same tender, careful consideration. Whether the couple calls their relationship a marriage or a commitment, we honor the covenant. Further, we look forward to the day when all couple who so wish can enjoy the full recognition and entitlements of marriage from the society at large.
COBSCOOK (ME): July 18, 1993 Minute 93:43 The meeting addressed the issue of same gender marriages as New England Yearly Meeting requested we do. The meeting would apply the same guidelines and standards to such marriage as we would to a heterosexual marriage as outlined in New England Yearly Meeting Faith and Practice. We recognize that there are additional concerns (legal, economic, and social) involved in same gender marriages, but we have faith that the clearness committee overseeing such a marriage would thoughtfully address those both for the individuals involved and the meeting as a whole. This minute is the result of our beginning attempts to address this issue and we suspect it will evolve as we further pursue the matter.
NORTH SHORE (MA): July 23, 1993 Minute On Same Gender Unions
We at North Shore Meeting recognize that the Divine Light shines with equal brightness in all loving and committed relationships, whether straight or gay. We believe that we are called and ready to support, recognize and celebrate all such relationships, holding them in the Light and participating in the public celebration of such commitment. We believe that marriage is fundamentally a spiritual union, brought about by the Inner Light in the hearts, minds, and lives of two people. A wedding or celebration of commitment is a public statement and recognition of such a spiritual union in which, in the presence of God and before assembled Friends, each promises, with divine assistance, to be loving and faithful unto the other for as long as they both shall live. Therefore, we affirm that if a couple comes before us requesting such a ceremony, we will appoint a clearness committee for them, provided that at least one person in that couple be a member or regular attender at our meeting. If the couple is found to be clear for union, we will hold a celebration of loving commitment under our care, in accordance with traditional procedures. We are aware of the diversity of attitudes towards the term "marriage" and leave to the couple the characterization of their relationship. We note that one Friend was unable to accept the use of the term "marriage" for same-gender unions.
SWANSEA (MA): Minute received in NEYM office December 4, 1992 Swansea Monthly meeting of Friends has labored for several months with the issue of the practice of homosexuality, including same gender marriages as accepted in some meetings within the New England Yearly Meeting. It is our belief that the Holy Bible is the profound law and its restrictions on sexual behavior must be followed regardless of modern psychology or other theories. It is the decision of this meeting that we can no longer participate in Quarterly or Yearly Meeting activities and hereby suspend all relationships until Quarterly and Yearly Meeting accept Biblical standards.
TO ALL FRIENDS IN NEW ENGLAND FROM SWANSEA MONTHLY MEETING OF FRIENDS Approved by Swansea Monthly Meeting in session October 24, 1993
A year ago Swansea Monthly Meeting drafted a minute suspending ties with New England Yearly Meeting and with Sandwich Quarterly Meeting until they turn back to Biblical standards including the Biblical requirement for sexual purity. We have received several responses to that Minute, some in support and others opposed. We find no room for discussion or study on the issue of homosexual activity, as it is perfectly clear what God says in Holy Scripture. At Swansea it is our firm resolve to be obedient to his Word regardless of what other Friends say or do. Those who approve what God forbids become God's enemies. We plead with all Friends to submit to His revealed will and not to rebel against Him. We draw your attention to the attached Declaration of Southwest Yearly Meeting [dated January 24, 1992, not attached here - see the file "swym1.txt" in the Quaker Electronic Archive], which we heartily endorse as an excellent presentation of Truth on this issue.
NORTH FAIRFIELD (ME): September 12, 1993 The most recent marriage under the care of North Fairfield Meeting was sixteen years ago. Before the marriage the procedure set forth in Faith and Practice was carefully fulfilled. This family is now four plus a foster child (from a single parent home) whose mother is mentally ill. Other members of the community have been married in the meeting house. It seems that in all these instances our support of the newly married has not been strong and probably we should be more aware and supportive for those who have thus shared a tender moment in their lives with us. Regarding the establishment of a policy in allowing homosexual marriages under the care of this meeting: We as a meeting do believe that there is authority to be found in the Bible. This specific matter is not considered in so many words, but the thrust of the spirit of the Scriptures in both the Old and New Testament is that homosexuality is a violation of God's will for His children. We of North Fairfield, therefore, have approved that our response to any such request will be a denial. We do feel that it is very important for those making the request to be caringly and carefully informed of the bases of the denial.
FARMINGTON (ME): October 8, 1993 Farmington Friends Meeting honors commitments to be loving and faithful partners made in the presence of God. We honor such commitment in both heterosexual and homosexual relationships. Our Meeting endeavors to support such commitments between loving partners with respect and with sensitivity.
SMITHFIELD (RI): October 24, 1993 Minute 93.78 Salem Quarter Minute [see above, p.4]: The Committee on Ministry and Counsel received a request from Beacon Hill Monthly Meeting and Salem Quarter to examine how we would respond to same-gender couple married under the care of another meeting who might move from that meeting to ours. Ministry and Counsel brought this concern before Smithfield Friends at an open meeting on March 21, 1993. There were many tender feelings expressed at this meeting. The sense was that on of our strengths at Smithfield Meeting is our willingness to welcome people from a variety of backgrounds and personal histories. We wish to provide all a place to seek God's will in their lives and to find a community which seeks God together in love. Out of the sense of this gathering, Ministry and Counsel has brought forth our own version of the Beacon Hill minutes, and we unite in supporting the following statement: We acknowledge that same gender marriages and celebrations of commitment are taking place in the larger Quaker community. Should one of these couples move to our meeting, we will support their relationship as we would that of any other couple. It is our hope that as a community and as individuals we might continue to grow in our understanding of the meaning of marriage and committed relationships.
FRESH POND (MA) : January 9, 1994 A couple marries in response to their love for each other and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. True marriage represents the spiritual union of two hearts and is not dependent upon outward forms or legal recognition. The meeting cares for and celebrates the marriage relationship but it is God who sanctifies the marriage. We believe that the Divine Light illuminates all loving and committed relationships. We therefore affirm that we will take under our care the marriage of gay and lesbian couples in the same manner that we do for heterosexual couples. We further undertake to support and nurture all families within our meeting whatever form they may take. We realize that this support will entail educating ourselves about the diverse needs of the families that comprise our community. We recognize that the unity we have found on this issue is not shared by Friends everywhere. We cherish God's spirit in others even if they are not in unity with us on this matter. We hope that Friends' continued search for guidance on this issue will not be a source of division but will lead to a deeper unity and love among all of us.
Our faith underlies these affirmations:
First, concerning the spiritual basis of our beliefs, as a group our hearts resonate deeply with the biblical injunctions to "love God" and to "love your neighbor as yourself." We experience all forms of loving relationships as manifestations of God's love on earth.
Second, we believe that Friends' testimony on equality is central to our Quaker faith. Just as Friends have historically witnessed for equality among all races and both sexes, so do we now witness for equality among people of all sexual orientations. We understand equality not as sameness but as equality of respect.
Third, we affirm that our sexuality and sexual identity are integral components of who we are, not separate from who we are as spiritual beings. For lesbian, gay and bisexual members of the community, this allows for a wholeness of being, a feeling of personal unity within the context of the community. We bring our whole selves to our relationship with the Divine and find that sexuality within a loving relationship, whether homosexual or heterosexual, has the potential to bring us closer to God.
We as a Meeting feel we have been blessed by the presence and participation of lesbians, gays and bisexuals as individuals and, for some, as partners in same sex couples. We are committed to providing spiritual care and acceptance to all these individuals, believing that the spiritual growth of each person best ripens in the context of a community of faith and with the support and loving regard of that community. Furthermore, we are committed to seeking out ways to actively provide that love and support, being mindful of the oppression lesbians, gays and bisexuals face in our society.
At the first Meeting for business of the newly formed Northampton Friends Meeting in February, 1994, the following minute was joyfully adopted:
The Meeting affirms the goodness of committed, loving relationships and offers recognition and support to those who share this ideal and desire to enter into a permanent relationship based upon it. By tradition, the Meeting recognizes committed union in a celebration of marriage under the care of the Meeting.
The same loving care and consideration will be given to both same-sex and heterosexual applicants as outlined in Faith and Practice.
The Meeting shares a vision of a future that extends all the same rights to homosexual couples as are now enjoyed by heterosexual couples under the law. The Meeting's vision of marriage will not be complete until the unification of the legal and the spiritual is complete and available to all.
We recognize the additional difficulties faced by same sex couples in our society and commit ourselves to remaining vigilant and informed in our care of these couples. We further acknowledge that same sex marriages and celebrations of commitment are taking place in the wider Quaker community. Should one of these couples move to our Meeting, we will support their relationship as we would any other couple married under our care.
The Meeting is committed to nurturing all of the families within its community. We recognize that families composed of gay, lesbian or bisexual parents and their children face additional difficulties in our society. The Meeting hopes to be a safe haven for these families and commits itself to providing special support to both the children and the parents. We strive to help all the Meeting's children learn to value and respect all individuals whatever their sexual orientation. For children who grow to question their own sexual orientation or who believe themselves to be gay, lesbian, or bisexual, the Meeting wishes to offer support and affirmation.
The Meeting commits itself to promoting acceptance, dignity and respect for lesbian, gay and bisexual people. Lesbian, gay and bisexual people are still struggling to be granted full civil and human rights in this and in other societies. We stand together in this struggle for justice. We oppose social, economic, and legal discrimination and all forms of violence against anyone based on sexual orientation. Heterosexual Friends will thus share with lesbian, gay and bisexual Friends the responsibility of protecting their safety and their rights. We are committed to carrying out the spirit of this Minute within our own Meeting, within the larger Quaker community and in the world at large. As a Meeting and as individuals, we seek to heed the movement of the Spirit leading us to both recognize and act to redress the array of affronts, injustices and violence encountered by lesbians, gays and bisexuals.
Through our collective struggle with issues related to gender and sexual orientation, our Meeting has experienced much joy, much pain, and important community and individual growth. In adopting this Minute, we affirm our commitment to continue this important work. We trust that in proceeding faithfully we will receive the gifts that all our ways of loving bring and the clarity and strength to carry out our readings.
We have borrowed liberally the words and concepts expressed in the writings of other Meetings. We used a compilation entitled "Minutes on Same-Gender Marriage of Meetings in New England Yearly Meeting." We wish to acknowledge with gratitude the following Meetings whose thoughts and beliefs have contributed greatly to our Minute on Sexual Orientation:
Mt. Toby Monthly Meeting Beacon Hill Monthly Meeting Belfast (Maine) Monthly Meeting Storrs Monthly Meeting
Additionally, we were informed by written materials prepared as part of our Meeting's previous considerations of lesbian and gay issues. The statements on "equality" are taken from New England Yearly Meeting Faith and Practice (p. 179)
[Northampton by minutes provided Bruce Hawkins, Northampton (Mass.) Friends Meeting War Tax Resistor -- support the Peace Tax Fund and conscientious resistors]
MONADNOCK (NH), October, 1995: Monadnock Monthly Meeting will set up a clearness committee for marriage for any couple which requests it, as long as at least one of the couple is a member or regular attender of this meeting. We will not discriminate on the basis of age, race, or sexual orientation.
DOVER (NH), January, 1996: Dover Friends Meeting commits itself to promoting acceptance and respect for the dignity of all loving couples (heterosexual and homosexual) whose relationship honors the sacredness of each partner's life and spirit as important to the life of the Meeting. We wish to support all individuals in such relationships and stand ready to take such relationships within our Meeting under our care.
Upon receiving an application, Dover Friends Meeting will provide a clearness process. If the couple is found clear, and if Meeting approves, members of the meeting will be invited to witness prayerfully to the couple's speaking their vows to each other in a designated meeting for worship, provide oversight for putting that relationship into as secure a legal foundation as possible, and seek to provide encouragement and guidance throughout the life of this couple.
In the case of a heterosexual couple, the legal foundation is provided through the state by the marriage license. In the case of a gay or lesbian couple, or a heterosexual couple not desiring a state license, Dover Friends Meeting will appoint an oversight committee to work with the couple to put into place the legal documents regarding the care of children, sharing and stewardship of material resources, separation agreement and wills, that approximate as much as possible the legal responsibilities and privileges of a heterosexual marriage.
The naming of the celebration will be left up to the couple with the help of the clearness committee appointed by the meeting. A couple may choose to call it a celebration of commitment, a celebration of union, or a celebration of marriage, keeping in mind that some members may not be comfortable with using the term "marriage" in this way.
We recognize that within our own meeting and within the larger Religious Society of Friends there are differences, even after many years of sincere search and prayer, in how each of us perceives the Truth. We have wrestled long and hard on this issue, holding fast to patience, good will, and a love for each other. We give thanks for the care and guidance of the Holy Spirit, for it is the Presence of Divine Love which transcends our differences to hold us in a deeper unity.
FRAMINGHAM (MA) February, 1996: Framingham Monthly Meeting affirms our belief in that of God in every person. Furthermore, we attest that this belief embraces all persons regardless of sexual orientation.
Framingham affirms that all couples, including those of the same gender, have equal opportunity to be married in the manner of Friends, under the care of the Meeting. The love between these couples, as it grows, will enrich their relationship, the Meeting and the World at large. The Meeting is committed to supporting these couples according to their need.
Framingham Meeting acknowledges the Certificate of Marriage signed by the couple and those present at the ceremony as the witness of Friends to the couple's spiritual union. Mindful that only mixed gender couples among us currently have the rights to legally sanctioned marriage and its privileges, the Meetings asks Friends and particularly couples preparing for marriage, to examine how best to respond and bear witness to the inequalities still present in the legal system.
MIDCOAST (ME), April, 1996: Midcoast Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends rejoices in the love between two people as one of the greatest gifts of God. The religious life of the Meeting offers continuing tender support to all couples in our Quaker community who wish to express their love and commitment to one another in a permanent relationship. The same loving care and consideration will be given both to same-gender and heterosexual couples who request marriage under the care of the Meeting. The process for approval will follow the good order of Friends as described in Faith and Practice.
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