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Comments on Marriage Minute

The following is a log of comments from the mailing list: Quaker-L, on a posting I made relating to the draft minute on Separating Religious and State Ceremonies. I'm hoping the various postings provide perspective and clarity from a wider sometimes "weighty" Quaker community as we consider the minute.

Alan Taplow

 

First, Some Background Concerning the Minute
from Spencer Smith, Clerk of Plainfield Meeting

"At our July Ministry and Counsel retreat it was pointed out to me that as Clerk it is my responsibility to sign marriage licenses, thus putting the final seal on the legality of a marriage in the eyes of the State. (See Faith and Practice, p. 255) My immediate thought was that I did not feel I was willing to do this so long as there is legal inequality between opposite-sex unions and same-sex unions.


"As I thought more about the issue — with which many meetings have struggled over the last few years — it occurred to me that one problem for Friends is that we have accepted the control of the State over unions of our couples. That is, that we are complicit with the State and its unfair laws when we solemnize marriages of opposite sex couples but cannot do the same for same-sex couples.

Most of us in our meeting understand the unfairness of the current situation and wish to work toward equal treatment in this area, just as we have done so in the past for equality of women, of African Americans and others.


"Some meetings (Putney, for one) are performing no marriages until equality is achieved.

It occurred to me there is another solution which also respects our Quaker tradition of not submitting ourselves unnecessarily to civil authority — especially when we disagree with that authority. This is the European tradition of separate civil and religious ceremonies.

In most European countries the legally recognized marriage is a brief civil ceremony performed in a government office. Those who have a religious affiliation then have a religious ceremony according to their tradition.


"In this country there has been (despite our Constitution) a frequent blurring of the boundary between church and state. And marriage is but one example. A further thought on separation of church and state: Today we are concerned that religious groups are taking over civil functions. But the original concern of Americans was to keep government from controlling religion and preventing freedom of worship.


"I presented my concern and these thoughts to the group assembled for our Peace and Social Concerns Committee at the September 2004 NW Quarterly Meeting. After some discussion and clarification we came to unity and jointly wrote the Minute which our clerk, Marcia Mason, presented to the Business Meeting. There was great interest at that meeting — including some confusion about what the minute meant — and a desire to have the Quarter enter into discussion to clarify the issue and what it might mean to us as Friends."


Some links which relate to this issue:

 

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/living/2001888924_marriagehistory29m.html

 

http://www.mcwilliams.com/books/aint/214.htm

 


 

To Quaker-L

Greetings Friends,

The Northwest Quarter of New England Yearly Meeting minuted a request to NWQ Meetings to consider the following minute regarding a proposal to separate religious and state marriage ceremonies, and to bring the sense of their Meeting to the December Quarter Meeting.

=======================================

NORTHWEST QUARTERLY MEETING

9/11/04


MINUTE SEPARATING RELIGIOUS AND STATE CEREMONIES


IT IS THE ROLE OF OUR MEETINGS TO WITNESS TO SPIRITUAL UNIONS OF COUPLES WITHIN OUR COMMUNITY. IT IS NOT OUR PROPER ROLE TO DOCUMENT THOSE RELATIONSHIPS FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE STATE.


WE ENCOURAGE MONTHLY MEETINGS TO RECIND THEIR DESIGNATION OF OFFICERS FOR THE PURPOSE OF SIGNING STATE MARRIAGE CERTIFICATES.


COUPLES WHO WISH THEIR UNIONS TO BE RECORDED LEGALLY ARE ENCOURAGED TO VISIT THE APPROPRIATE CIVIL AUTHORITIES.

(Note: This draft minute is to be circulated to all NWQ Monthly Meetings for their input and reviewed hopefully at the December Quarter.)

============================================


We have set up a schedule to discuss this and have worship sharing around this proposal, to arrive at some sense of meeting to report to Quarter.


I am told by some that in the evolution of Quaker History, there had been a major struggle years ago, to have various States legally recognize the Quaker Marriage ceremony. While some feel we shouldn't be agents of the State, but others are reluctant to throw away a right which we had to fight to get.


I am trying to do some research on the history of State recognition of Quaker Marriage. Can anyone steer me to any writings which document such a struggle, if it in fact was a difficult accomplishment in our history to have States recognize Quaker Marriage.


Peace, Alan

Alan Taplow ataplow@vtlink.net

 




Date: Mon, 4 Oct 2004 10:30:32 -0400

From: "Julia Ewen" <jewen@bellsouth.net>

Subject: Re: [Quaker-L] History:State recognition of Quaker Marriage To:

-

 Although I have no specific reference to give Alan Taplow, I would

 suggest that consulting the archives of the historical association of

 North Carolina Yearly Meeting might yield some information of the sort

 he is seeking. Also a letter to the research librarian at the library

 of Guilford College, where they have an excellent Quaker documents

 collection might be a good place to look. And the records of the North

 Carolina state legislature. North Carolina is one of the states which

 do recognize Quaker marriages, specifically by statute. Pennsylvania

 does also.


 We have had discussions in Atlanta Friends Meeting about this issue.

 In states, including Georgia, that did not specifcally by statute

 recognize Quaker marriages, common law has applied to all unions that

 were not formally solemnized by an authorized official or clergy

 person. That included Quaker marriages. However, several years ago,

 Georgia

 specifically by statute said it no longer recognizes common law

 marriage.


 Nobody in our Meeting has wanted to stir up the pot. We have kept

 right on filing the state's forms with the county, signed by the Clerk

 or other designated Friend, on the theory that as long as the state

 keeps on accepting the paper from us it is de facto recognition of

 Friends' marriages. The state keeps on awarding divorces to Friends

 without questioning whether we have been legally married in the first

 place.


 We solemnize gay unions, and we call them marriages, and we use the

 same procedure for those marriages as we do for man-woman couples,

 with the exception of filing paper with the State, as the State does

 not accept it,the state having no legal recognition of gay marriages.


 My understanding of Friends' practice regarding state involvement in

 marriages was that filing papers with the state was rather like

 paying taxes to the state. The state may require one to pay or file

 whatever it pleases. By common law or statute the state can decide

 what it will recognize as a marriage and what registration and or

 taxes it will require in regard to it.


 The issue of registration with the state came up during times when

 Friends were being subject to proving their conscientious objections

 to war by registering and going before a draft board. However, the

 issue was a bit different. It was not about the state refusing to

 draft some people who wanted to be drafted....but I digress...


 The State, in Friends' views, has no authority to accomplish the

 marriage itself. That is accomplished by the Spirit in the hearts of

 the two people joined in the union. The Meeting recognizes this in a

 called Meeting for Worship. The State is at liberty to recognize this

 deed of the Spirit in its own way.


 But the Meeting is not supposed recognize a wedding done by a civil

 authority or by the pronouncement of a priest or minister who says,

 "by the authority vested in me by the state..." That, in Friends'

 thinking,would not be truthful, for we are not married by the

 authority of the State, but by the authority of God.


 The problem would seem to be whether Friends wish to do civil

 disobedience by not filing papers for straight couples if the state

 will not accept papers for gays. However, it seems to me that the

 proper course of action would be to insist that the state accept

 papers for gays also, rather than ceasing to file papers for man-woman

 couples. Because the issue is legal recognition of some, and not all

 of our marriages, not the authority of the State to regulate the

 conduct of marriages among Friends--which Friends do not recognize

 anyway--nor about the authority of Friends to conduct marriages--the

 authority for which we have from a Power Higher Than the State. IMHO.


 In seeking a specific statute, one runs the risk that the statute that

 one sees passed will turn out to be a statute speficially forbidding

 all unions not solemnized by a state official or ordained clergy

 person, (or a statute specifically forbidding gay marriage --there is

 a proposed constitutional amendment re same on the ballot in this

 state in November). This would throw the issue of Friends' man-woman marriages

 into direct violation of state law, which is not currently the case,

 without doing anything to recognize the legality of gay unions.


 I don't think it will be helpful to our gay members for straight

 couples to be going to magistrates in order to avoid breaking state

 law. At present there is no state law saying that we cannot solemnize

 gay marriages. Or heterosexual marriages. There is officially no

 recognition of either one.But no specific prohibition against our

 doing either thing. It is the registration of the gay marriages that is the issue where inequality lies. At least in Georgia.


 I have raised these thoughts with our M &W committee and the

 consensus seems to be to let the matter rest rather than stir the pot

 by seeking legislation. Defeating the amendment is obviously something

 that many of us will feel called to the polls to do.


 Interstate recognition of unions that are recognized in some states

 but not in others is probably going to be more of an issue than what

 marriages can or cannot be performed by a church or other religious

 group. (That would be interference with the first amendment).


 However, recognition of some groups' marriages and not others could

 raise a first amendment problem too. Gay marriage is not the only sort

 of marriage that might have an issue with the state. What about plural

 marriage? Having more than one legal wife is not possible and having

 two wives registered with the State or even in different states is a

 crime in any state in which one is living, not just in the state or

 states in which one got married. Having a legalwife and a common law

 wife at the same time used to be illegal also.


 Muslims, some branches of LDS, and adherents of various African and

 Asian religions have practiced polygamy here in direct technical

 violation of statutes intended to enforce monogamy. Yet there has

 never been a suggestion that there should be a constitutional

 amendment requiring monogamy.


 Nor has the constitutionality of statutes against polygamy ever been

 successfully challenged to be best of my knowledge. (Utah had to give up

 legal polygamy in order to join the Union). Nor has reciprocity for

 marriages of any state been called into question by any other state

 for failure to forbid multiple marriages being performed by a

 religious sect.


 The issue is not performance of ceremonies (which is a first amendment

 issue), apparently, but the registration of the paper (which

 apparently is not). Thus IMHO, sending Quakers out to get married by

 magistrates or other state authorized agents IMHO violates our

 principles and does not address the real issue, which is registration

 of the marriage papers.


 If the intention is to express solidarity with gay Friends, and that

 if the state will not register all equally, that we will cease to

 recognize any marriages among us, seems to me to sacrifice an

 essential thread in the fabric of our communities and an abrogation of

 the Meeting's responsibilities toward all its members, and does not

 really address the legal problem. Of course I am not a lawyer, and the

 law can work in ways that seem totally illogical to laypeople...


 For what it's worth.


 Julia Parker Ewen






Date: Tue, 05 Oct 2004 14:57:22 -0400

From: Kristin Lord <antonia@albedo.net>

Subject: [Quaker-L] Re: History: State recognition of Quaker marriage

To: <quaker-l@quakerlists.org>

Message-ID: <BD8866D2.82EC%antonia@albedo.net>

Content-Type: text/plain; charset="US-ASCII"


Dear Alan,

For the most part, Friend Julia Parker Ewen speaks my mind on the minute

sent out by NW Quarterly Meeting of New England YM for the response of

Monthly Meetings. It defeats the purpose of the support of same-sex marriage

under the law (be it the law of Vermont or New Hampshire, whose statutes are

relevant to the NW Quarter, or any other jurisdiction) to discourage

opposite-sex couples from seeking legal recognition. Since Friend Julia has

written so eloquently on this and related points, I feel no need to speak

further on the question of same-sex marriage.


However, there are some other issues about marriage and the law which are of

vital importance. First, when we speak of "Quaker marriage," there is the

tendency to forget that many Quakers are married to members of other faiths.

One of the great virtues of a state marriage license is that it makes it

possible for people of different religious backgrounds to get married.

Making it impossible for local Meetings to register marriages puts

interfaith couples in a potentially untenable position. Will they be married

under the care of a representative of the other religion, perhaps with

Quaker elements in the ceremony, or will they simply go to city hall or to

the local justice of the peace (again, with or without Meeting involvement)?

that Having a religious ceremony without filing papers with the state

becomes a lot more complicated when more than one religion is involved.


Secondly, performing opposite-sex marriages without filing the forms with

the state will probably have serious and long-lasting negative repercussions

for the broader relationship between Friends and other religious

communities. For instance, to the extent possible given disagreements over

same-sex marriage and the remarriage of divorced persons, it is valuable

during interfaith discussions for participants to have a common source of

reference.


In addition, in this day it is impossible to speak of marriage without

considering divorce. One of the reasons for a legal marriage is that couples

of all faiths, or of none, are treated the same way should the marriage

break down. The law is sometimes unjust, but at least it is unjust in the

same way to everyone in the same position. For the sake of argument, let's

say Friends that might feel comfortable taking separation agreements of

their own members into the hands of clearness committees; but what's OK for

us has to be fine for someone else as well, and I can't see a lot of us

Quakers here in North America being happy with adjudication --say-- of

Muslim divorce by a very conservative application of sharia, with limited

recourse to secular courts. This latter situation is not as far-fetched as

it might sound: Ontario has initiated controversial discussions with some

Muslim groups for the limited application of sharia in some divorce cases,

provided that both parties agree and basic safeguards of Ontario law are

maintained. Although as an American I have limited involvement with Canadian

political issues, I can say that this proposal has elicited condemnation

from some groups inside and outside the Muslim community because of concerns

about potential coercion and fears about areas in which women are treated

differently under sharia and Canadian secular law. (Please, if there are any

Canadians on this list who might see a major gaffe in my understanding of

this proposal, come forward and correct me.)


Having a paper trail that someone is actually divorced is essential if that

person is to marry again. The Roman Catholic Church has its own form of

paper trail (annulment), but I can't see that Quakers would want to come up

with a uniform sets of protocols to make sure that all of the bureaucratic

arrangements are in order and that both parties in a previous relationship

have a formal recognition that it is over. While it is true that clearness

committees sometimes have to make sure that couples have taken care of all

of the practicalities from previous cohabiting relationships, these

committees are immeasurably helped by the social tendency for those who have

children and/or own property to either have legally recognized marriages or

sophisticated legal arrangements outside of marriage.


Having a state-recognized marriage license functions very much like having a

valid passport. This is one of the reasons many same-sex couples want to

have them. Despite enormous differences among countries (as in the

permissibility of polygyny in some cultures), a notarized marriage license

from jurisdiction X does carry some weight in jurisdiction Y. Depending on

the country and circumstance, these documents are sometimes needed for

immigration, citizenship, and adoption. Should Quakers treat their own

members as second-class citizens should they choose legal recognition of

their marriage for such practical reasons? I hope not; as a Religious

Society, we've eschewed the belief that some Friends are more equal than

others.


Finally, a number of Friends have always believed that marriage is not only

a relationship between the couple and God, mediated by the spiritual

community of the Meeting; they have held that marriage is vital to the

social relationships of the broader secular community --neighbors,

colleagues, and so on. One of the historical reasons for the push for legal

acceptance of Quaker marriage procedures is that Friends believe (in words

spoken for a different occasion) that "true godliness does not turn (people)

out of the world but helps them to live better in it and excites their

endeavours to mend it."


Now, for my disclaimer: I am a member of Middlebury, Vermont Monthly

Meeting, which is part of Northwest Quarterly Meeting of New England Yearly

Meeting. My husband and I hold a Quaker marriage license, signed by the

co-clerk of Middlebury Monthly Meeting and duly deposited with the town

clerk of Ripton, Vermont. (That co-clerk went on to be one of the plaintiffs

in the case that resulted in civil unions, but that is another story.) Since

I am a member of Middlebury Meeting and my husband is a member of Kitchener

Area Monthly Meeting in Canadian YM, the actual marriage was conducted under

the joint care of both. The clearness committee was held in Canada and the

oversight took place in Vermont. We have several notarized copies of our

marriage license here at the house, and they have been needed on a number of

occasions: when I applied for a visa to live and work in Canada (the shoe

could be on the other foot in the future, if I need to get a Green Card for

my husband), and at various stages when we adopted our daughter in China. My

daughter is, in fact, eligible for US citizenship, and the marriage license

will be supplied once again when I send off the paperwork later this year.

Best wishes,

Kristin Lord





Date: Tue, 05 Oct 2004 11:04:03 -0400

 From: davy@hotmail.com

 Subject: [Quaker-L] RE: taplow's minute

 To: quaker-l@quakerlists.org


 Very interesting!


 One thing- There is clear subtext to this, and so...


 I would be interested in hearing what the discernment process

 was/is like for this minute.


 Specifically, there is a lot about the minute that will sound like

 a punt to some folks when it comes to the real issue. Certainly this can

 be a valid response to long and careful discernment, but I am left

 wondering what that discernment was like. (Or maybe your

 quarter's discernment on this topic has only begun or not even begun

 ... which would otherwise make the wording make more sense in

 context).


 Particularly given that the minute does not provide further

 encouragement for meetings to review their current policies ... it

 makes a tacit assumption that that house is in order.


 One other thing about the wording does trouble me, in that you'll

 often want a co-officiation, with the justice of the peace on hand and

 the members of the meeting on hand. Thus, "visit the civil

 authorities" sort of implies that this would be done at another

 time.

 I don't think that will be attractive to most couples.






Date: Tue, 5 Oct 2004 23:07:40 GMT

From: "cara_9@juno.com" <cara_9@juno.com>

Subject: Re: [Quaker-L] History:State recognition of Quaker Marriage To:

quaker-l@quakerlists.org

 

Hi Alan,

 

You should read the section on marriage in the practice copy of Pacific

Northwest's Faith and Practice. There is a detailed section on the

requirements and beliefs of the Meeting. I think the practice version is

the best version to read. It is written with simplicity and truth. The

edited version that was passed at PYM removed the beauty in the writing.

You may be able to get a copy of the practice version of Faith and

Practice from Bruce Folsom, San Francisco Meeting. He could certainly

lead you to a copy, if he does not have one himself. You should contact

Bruce Folsom and ask him for details on the history of Quaker marriage

and activism. He has a thorough knowledge base on Quaker History and an

interest in Gay Rights, Marriage and Equality. His email address is

historian@sfquakers.org. All marriages require a marriage license which

is issued by the State. Some might say it is easier than passing a

clearness committee on marriage.


Good Luck!


Tracey French






DateThu, 07 Oct 2004 052739 -0400

FromBill Samuel <wsamuel@mail.com

SubjectRe[Quaker-L] reproposed minute of NQM about not providing

          documentation of marriage to state officials

Toquaker-l@quakerlists.org

At 10/6/04 1122 AM, John E Yost wrote:

          I don't understand this proposed minute.

Marriage ceremonies and state recognition of marriage are already widely regarded as separate throughout the US.

Legal recognition of a marriage by the state is primarily for the benefit of the couple. Although these benefits may pale beside the pleasures of a community recognized spiritual, emotional and physical union, legally married folks do benefit from lower insurance costs, taxes, shared health care decisions and property. Lately a number of folks in not traditionally recognized as legal unions have been seeking these benefits too.

I suppose if a couple married in meeting really does not want to have their union recognized by the state, they could request that no documentation be submitted.


I suppose if a couple married in meeting really does not want to have

their union recognized by the state, they could request that no

documentation be submitted.


In Maryland, such a marriage would still be recognized by the state,

provided it was a marriage allowable under state law. For a marriage

performed by a religious body, the license serves as a notification to the

state of the marriage and an official record of it, but it does not create

a marriage. I don't know what other states may be similar.


Bill Samuel, Silver Spring, MD, USA wsamuel@mail.com

http//home.comcast.net/~wsamuel/ http//www.quakerinfo.com/

Internet Ministries Coordinator, Friends in Christ,

http//www.friendsinchrist.net/

Member, Adelphi MM, BYM; Affiliate, Rockingham MM, Ohio YM

"There is one, even Christ Jesus, that can speak to thy condition."





DateThu, 7 Oct 2004 062610 -0600

From"gjpalo" <gjpalo@Mindspring.com

SubjectRE[Quaker-L] reproposed minute of NQM about not

          providingdocumentation of marria ge to state officials

To<quaker-l@quakerlists.org


 -----Original Message-----

 Fromquaker-l-bounces@quakerlists.org

 [mailtoquaker-l-bounces@quakerlists.org]On Behalf Of John E Yost

 SentWednesday, October 06, 2004 923 AM

 Toquaker-l@quakerlists.org

 Subject[Quaker-L] repropose<html


           I don't understand this proposed minute.

           Marriage ceremonies and state recognition of marriage are already

           widely regarded as separate throughout the US.

           Legal recognition of a marriage by the state is primarily for the

           benefit of the couple.


It is also for the benefit of the community at large. Marriage is an

insitution on which both the “church” and the secular community at large

have a legitimate claim of interest. The legal and social implications of

marriage from the secular point of view are manifold -- public health,

children, legal names, property ownership and title, taxes, welfare,

education, and many other worldly matters are legitimate concerns of the

state.

Before there was separation of church and state, the distinction

between the worldly and spiritual aspects of marriage was not that important

from a legal point of view. But with the separation some matters became the

concern of both the state and religion. Marriage is one of them.


Just as the Quaker marriage rite is not only a matter of the individual

couple -- it is done “before God and these, our friends” and the certificate

is signed by all present, during the meeting -- so the marriage itself

extends beyond the meeting to the society at large. That is why part of the

normal procedures include the clerk or oversight committee signing the

marriage license according to the laws of the particular state.


Quakers have moved from being a closed community, as separate from the

community at large as the latter's powers would practically allow, to full

engagement in the society at large. They could go the other way and become

like the gypsies, but marriage, for Quakers too, is more than holding hands

and jumping over a broomstick.

Gerry Palo





Date: Thu, 07 Oct 2004 09:28:42 -0400

From: John Wilmerding <Wilmerding@earthlink.net>

Subject: [Quaker-L] Re: Proposed Minute of Northwest QM

To: QUAKER-L@quakerlists.org

Cc: Marcia Mason <mmason@vtlink.net>


In response to John E. Yost's note here, I was on the Northwest Quarterly Meeting Peace & Social Concerns Committee that drafted the minute in question. . . .


This minute arose in response to a Clerk from one of our Vermont Monthly Meetings saying that when advised that she would be expected to sign state marriage certificates, she felt she could not do so because the legal status and benefits of marriage are not extended to same-sex couples. The Clerk came to us deeply concerned over the moral implications of this, and (apparently) unable to move forward as an individual without the support of other Friends; that is, she brought her concern to Quarterly Meeting for assistance and support.


John Yost says that "Marriage ceremonies and state recognition of marriage are already widely regarded as separate throughout the US." This is not true. Most people think of marriage as only one institution, and many (if not most) think of it as taking place between a man and a woman. In fact, most public discussions of marriage issues these days focus almost entirely upon whether or not (or how) a given state or states sanction(s) -- or fail(s) to sanction -- marriages. Friends Meetings are marrying people of the same sex, thereby acting well outside of many conventional norms and (false) mores.


John Yost further concentrates his remarks upon the legal benefits of marriage. These benefits "follow"closely upon the marriage's recognition by the state, which is usually accomplished via the signing of a state marriage certificate. The issue of legal benefits, however, is essentially secondary to the issue of whether recognition of a marriage (per se) is granted at all. In Vermont and New Hampshire, the states covered by Northwest Quarter, such recognition is not given to same-sex couples. Therefore the legal benefits mentioned by John Yost cannot follow for those couples.


But -- and not to confuse the issue at hand -- the two states differ in one important regard: Vermont has civil unions, and New Hampshire doesn't. Friends will recall that Vermont granted "civil unions" with most, if not all, of legal benefits accorded to same-sex couples married (or joined in civil union) in this state. Friends Meetings continue to marry such couples in Vermont. Other denominations may do so as well; I don't know. We have a positive sense that by refusing to accord specific recognition of a *marriage* per se, the state is, in effect, disqualifying itself from being able to comment on (or record) the fact of marriages taking place under the care of our meetings.


My own Putney Monthly Meeting's Minute on Marriage, recorded in the late 1980s, called on our Clerks not to sign state marriage certificates so long as the right to marry was not granted to same-sex couples. It still isn't.


It is true in our meetings that a couple could request that a state marriage certificate not be signed, or (more likely) not bring one forward for signature. That's not the point of the new minute. The new minute would essentially ask our Monthly Meetings to boycott the state-sponsored institution of marriage until new laws are drawn up allowing equal documentation of marriage among people regardless whether they are of the same sex or of different sexes.

John Wilmerding

Putney (VT) MM

Northwest (NH-VT) QM

New England YM






Date: Thu, 7 Oct 2004 08:31:30 -0500

From: James Riemermann &lt;jamestr@gmail.com

Subject: Re: [Quaker-L] re: proposed minute of NQM about not providing

documentation of marria ge to state officials

To: John E Yost &lt;jeyost@juno.com

Cc: quaker-l@quakerlists.org

           I don't understand this proposed minute.

Marriage ceremonies and state recognition of marriage are already widely regarded as separate throughout the US.

Legal recognition of a marriage by the state is primarily for the benefit of the couple.

 Although these benefits may pale beside the pleasures of a community recognized spiritual, emotional and physical union, legally married folks do benefit from lower insurance costs, taxes, shared health care decisions and property.


 Lately a number of folks in not traditionally recognized as legal unions have been seeking these benefits too.


 I suppose if a couple married in meeting really does not want to have their union recognized by the state, they could request that no documentation be submitted.

My own meeting has taken almost the opposite approach. When we have a

marriage, union or other commitment ceremony under the care of the

meeting, we offer to sign and submit the license form to the state,

*even if the union will not be recognized by the state*. This asserts

that we do not accept the limitations imposed by the state--for

instance, on same-sex marriage--while still supporting the social

benefits of marriage that a license makes possible. We also leave this

decision to the couple. There have been some couples who in their

ceremonies have declined both the license and the name “marriage” for

their unions, as a gesture of solidarity with same-sex couples who are

denied this legal status.





Message: 5

Date: Thu, 7 Oct 2004 10:43:17 -0400

From: “Julia Ewen” &lt;jewen@bellsouth.net

Subject: Re: [Quaker-L] re: proposed minute of NQM about not

To: “John E Yost” &lt;jeyost@juno.com,<x-tab></x-tab>&lt;quaker-l@quakerlists.org


There is such a man-woman couple in our Atlanta Friends Meeting who chose

not to register their union with the state of Georgia, and who refused to

call, or let others call, their union a marriage, Georgia being a common

law state at that time. It is still their position that the State ought not

to be involved in regulating anybody's marriages at all. However, theirs is

very much a minority position and based in special personal circumstances as

well as principles...

Julia

 

-


 


Date: Thu, 07 Oct 2004 10:24:11 -0500

From: Peter Lasersohn_lasersohn@sbcglobal.net

Subject: Re: [Quaker-L] History:State recognition of Quaker Marriage

To: quaker-l@quakerlists.org


At 10:19 PM 10/3/2004, Alan Taplow wrote:

I am trying to do some research on the history of State recognition of

Quaker Marriage. Can anyone steer me to any writings which document such

a struggle, if it in fact was a difficult accomplishment in our history to

have States recognize Quaker Marriage.


Fox's journal describes a court case in 1661 in which the legality of

Quaker marriages was challenged and successfully defended. This was, I

think, one of the earliest legal victories for the Quaker movement.

Peter Lasersohn





-------- Original Message --------

SubjectQuaker marriage and civil marriage

Fromspencer smith <sspencervt@yahoo.com>

DateFri, October 8, 2004 823 pm

Toantonia@albedo.net


Hi Kristin Lord,

thanks for your thoughts which Alan Taplow forwarded

to me. Here are some thoughts of mine -- first the

background that led to the Minute and second some

ideas in response to your note.

Spencer Smith


Some Background Concerning the Minute


          At our July Ministry and Counsel retreat it was pointed out to me that as Clerk it is my responsibility to sign marriage licenses, thus putting the final seal on the legality of a marriage in the eyes of the State. (See Faith and Practice, p. 255) My immediate thought was that I did not feel I was willing to do this so long as there is legal inequality between opposite-sex unions and same-sex unions.


          As I thought more about the issue -with which many meetings have struggled over the last few years -it occurred to me that one problem for Friends is that we have accepted the control of the State over unions of our couples. That is, that we are complicate with the State and its unfair laws when we solemnize marriages of opposite sex couples but cannot do the same for same-sex couples.


          Most of us in our meeting understand the unfairness of the current situation and wish to work toward equal treatment in this area, just as we have done so in the past for equality of women, of African Americans and others.


          Some meetings (Putney, for one) are performing no marriages until equality is achieved.


          It occurred to me there is another solution which also respects our Quaker tradition of not submitting ourselves unnecessarily to civil authority — especially when we disagree with that authority. This is the European tradition of separate civil and religious ceremonies.


          In most European countries the legally recognized marriage is a brief civil ceremony performed in a government office. Those who have a religious affiliation then have a religious ceremony according to their tradition.


          In this country there has been (despite our Constitution) a frequent blurring of the boundary between church and state. And marriage is but one example.


          I presented my concern and these thoughts to the group assembled for our Peace and Social Concerns Committee at the recent NW Quarter Meeting. After some discussion and clarification we came to unity and jointly wrote the Minute which our clerk, Marcia Mason presented to the Business Meeting. There was great interest at that meeting — including some confusion about what the minute meant — and a desire to have the Quarter enter into discussion to clarify the issue and what it might mean to us as Friends.


Dear Kristin Lord,

          Alan Taplow forwarded your thoughtful letter to me. I believe you have a copy of the Minute on separating religious from civil marriage. If not, please let me know. . . .


          I believe that separating out the ceremony of commitment of couples to one another under the care of a Friends Meeting (or under the care of any other religious group for that matter) will actually open up the way for legal marriage for gays and lesbians. For example, fundamentalist groups & the Catholic Church may actually not feel so threatened if legal civil marriage of gays and lesbians is not forced into their service of marriage, but done by the State, separately. Then those religious groups not prejudiced against gays and lesbians (hopefully, Quakers included) will be able to perform marriages of all who meet their spiritual requirements.


          Please don’t think that I would discourage civil marriage. For all the reasons you name -travel, divorce and child custody, and many other reasons (not least of which, as you put it, we are part of a broader civil society as well as being Friends) it serves many purposes. But I don't see your concern that our Meetings may have to become involved with Muslim marriages or polygamy etc. The state will determine what is legal. Our task as Friends is to work in society for what we feel ought to be legal.


          Recently I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Ukraine for two years and one of my fellow volunteers (a man) married a Ukrainian woman. The first day of the wedding they went to the civil authorities and had a 5-10 minute ceremony. The second day they went to the local Ukrainian Orthodox Church and had a two-hour religious ceremony. After two days of weddings they felt quite married!


          For many years some Americans have married without a religious ceremony. But most Americans want one. But must it necessarily be entwined with the State’s legal requirements? If you read the entire section in Faith and Practice on Marriage Procedures I think you’ll see how entwined it currently is.


          You raise the question of interfaith marriages. I don’t see that what the Minute proposes makes this more or less complicated. Either a couple is agreed to have a Quaker marriage and the Oversight and Clearness committees agree or not. If no agreement can be reached the couple still has the alternative of the civil marriage if they choose that.


          I look forward to your thoughts on this.


          Spencer Smith

          Plainfield Meeting, NW Quarter