Here is Putney (Vermont, USA) Monthly Meeting's Minute of Exercise on the issue of whether to sign state marriage licenses. If you have any thoughts, insights, or clearness that might help us to work toward clearness on this issue, please convey them to:

Douglas Cox, Clerk
Putney Monthly Meeting
P.O. Box 381
Putney, VT 05346

Minute of Exercise
(Richmond, Indiana, Meeting: "We reminded ourselves of the traditional practice of minutes of exercise - which we also called 'process minutes' - to affirm where the meeting is at a given moment when there is as yet no clarity to act. These minutes simply state the various perceptions in the meeting on a given matter at that moment and can be helpful in building a sense of the meeting. Often if we can clearly affirm where we are, it frees us to perceive new light ... ")

Friends have an evolving understanding of God's will. At times we move slowly toward unity.

Putney Friends Meeting has not resolved the issue of whether it should continue to offer its legal endorsement to opposite sex marriages when it cannot do the same for same-sex marriages.

The meeting's spiritual blessing is given to all couples, whether gay, lesbian, or straight. In 1984 we affirmed a Minute on Homosexuality which welcomed sexual diversity in the Meeting. In 1988 the Meeting approved a minute on same-sex marriage ('Minute on Marriage'), and in 1991 a statement was written by the Gay and Lesbian Concerns Committee and accepted by the Meeting which welcomed all people, whatever their sexual orientation, into membership.

In the fall of 1989 a threshing session was held to discuss the question of whether the Clerk should sign Vermont marriage licenses for heterosexual couples when gay and lesbian couples are refused the same civil sanction. On June 21, 1991, a second threshing session took place. At that discussion, some felt withholding our state-authorized signing of the license from all couples married under the Meeting's care would be the fairest stand and would show support for our gay and lesbian members and attenders. Others thought this action would take away the option to accept or refuse civil endorsement of their marriage from opposite-sex partners. They felt Friends' right to have a legally approved marriage is historically important and should not be withheld lightly. Others at the threshing session thought that a more positive action for the meeting to take is to work toward eliminating discrimination against gays and lesbians. The talk was strongly emotional, even confrontational, at times, and no unity was found.

The issue will not go away. In time the Meeting will bridge this division. Meanwhile the Gay and Lesbian Concerns Committee is preparing a list of queries to be a resource for clearness committees as they explore marriage with same-sex and opposite- sex couples. The Committee and others in the Meeting are also urging members of the Vermont Legislature, by letter and in person, to include "sexual preference" in the existing civil rights law.

-- December 1991

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