On Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights in Marriage:
A Statement from University Friends Meeting

On February 19, 1997, University Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Seattle, Washington) authorized their Clerk to send the following message to their elected officials.

In the light of recent events in the legislature to further infringe the civil rights of gay and lesbian people, the University Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) wishes to make clear our beliefs and positions regarding the issue of same-gender marriage which we understand may come before the voters in the near future as a referendum.

A copy of this letter was sent to the governor and every member of the state legislature.

Our faith community has spent many years in prayer and dialogue regarding issues of marriage and family. One result of our faithful work has been that we approve wholly of the married union of same gendered couples. This position was taken as the result of listening for Divine guidance and seeking the Truth as best we could. Thus we do believe that God desires and accepts fully those couples, heterosexual or homosexual, who make loving commitments towards each other. We take this stand for marriage as a spiritual and personal commitment within a faith community.

As a result of this stand, it is our practice to approve and perform marriage and ceremonies of commitment for same-gendered couples. These couples we accept fully as a part of our community. We know them to be deeply committed to each other and loving parents. They are essential to the strength of our community and are often models of love and care. In addition to offering these couples our spiritual support, we feel it is important that homosexual marriages be granted civil status equal to that granted heterosexual couples.

The principle of human equality before God is a cornerstone of Friends' belief. Friends believe that everyone is a child of God and should be related to in those terms. Based on Friends' values we have grave concerns about the civil implications of banning same sex marriages. Our stand is based on a long history of supporting civil rights from the abolition of slavery to women's suffrage to contemporary issues concerning equality. These issues, in their time, were also radical and controversial.

Granting of civil recognition is important for many reasons. First, to ban such marriages and deny same-sex couples the legal rights, responsibilities and privileges which a legal union confirms, is contrary to our testimony and equality and denies them equal status in our society. Of equal importance is th negative impact that banning homosexual marriages has on the children of same sex couples. Social science research has consistently shows that children thrive in households of homosexual parents.

Arguments denying same sex marriage based on assertions of poor parenting and inappropriate modeling are simply unfounded. Where such children may have difficulties, it is less often with their homosexual parents and more that they perceive society as rejecting the lifestyle of their parents. This brings into question the child's own sense of value and acceptability. We see this as a flaw in society, not a flaw in homosexual parents.

We see clear benefits in granting equal recognition to same sex marriage. The legal and financial stability such social recognition offers to couples creates a more stable union and, for those who choose to parent, greater stability for their children as well.

We ask that you have the courage to step back and consider fully the meaning of "equality" and "family values". Over the years of our consideration of this issue we did struggle. We prayed and "held each other in the Light" even when we disagreed. The result of all of this has strengthened our community. We are still growing and learning, but we have what we believe is a truer sense of love, family, commitment and community. Listening and considering these issues deeply may result in your taking a stand that appears unpopular. We pray that you have the courage to do so. The abolition of slavery, [and] the [promotion of] equal rights of women and ethnic minorities were also "unpopular" in their day. To step forward into Truth required faith and courage. No less is asked of us today.

We are opposed to those bills (HB1330, SB5398 and SB5400) which we believe to be damaging to the family and society and contrary to God's desire for a loving and faithful community.

contributed by

Jonathan Betz-Zall
University Friends Meeting
Seattle, WA

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