Sexual Orientation and Gender Concerns
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Minutes and Statements by Meetings and Gatherings of New York Yearly Meeting and other Quaker Bodies Regarding Sexual Orientation and Gender Concerns
New York Yearly Meeting's Faith and Practice states “Just as there is that of God in every person, there is that of God in every relationship that calls upon God.” A minute from Poplar Ridge Meeting states: “We agree that spiritual gifts are not distributed with regard to sexual orientation and gender identity, and we affirm that we are all equal before God. Our Quaker testimony guides us to an all-embracing practice of human equality.” Scarsdale Meeting stated that it considers discrimination against “gays and lesbians contrary to the inclusive ministry of Jesus.”
Friends have not always been in unity on the issue of same-sex relationships, but have tended toward inclusiveness. Some meetings remain quite divided on sexual orientation issues.
In keeping with the principle of gender equality, some meetings within New York Yearly Meeting have stated that they will celebrate same-sex ceremonies of commitment or marriage. Usually the choice of whether to use the term marriage is left to the couple. Because same-sex marriages are not licensed by the State of New York, couples married in such ceremonies cannot obtain the legal benefits of marriage as a result.
Rochester Friends Meeting, in its minute on same-sex relationships, notes this and suggests that same-sex couples be provided with additional guidance regarding issues such as guardianship of minor children, Social Security benefits, inheritance, and other benefits that accrue automatically to heterosexual marriages. Among the meetings that have stated that they will perform such ceremonies are Albany, Chatham-Summit, Easton, Ithaca, Rochester, and Wilton meetings.
Friends have found much leadership surrounding gender and sexual orientation in the young people of the meeting. Statements from groups at YouthQuake, Farmington, the Junior Yearly Meeting Senior High Group, and Powell House Youth, show that young Friends were often ahead of their elders in addressing issues of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Friends in NYYM have also been concerned regarding employment policies that they see as discriminatory toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people, particularly the policies of Friends United Meeting, a larger Friends organization. FUM itself has been much divided over this policy. The report from NYYM representatives to FUM meeting held in April 2007 illustrates this lack of unity. Carol Holmes has written an extensive summary of the issues and a NYYM task group was formed in 2008 to discuss the issues. The task group responded to the Yearly Meeting; this, in turn, informed the report from the NYYM Representatives to New York Yearly Meeting later in 2008.
Several meetings have written statements about the issue, including Croton Valley, Housatonic, Montclair, New Brunswick, Purchase, Purchase Quarter, Scarsdale, Westbury, and Wilton Meetings. In all, Friends have attempted to follow the path laid out in the quote that Albany Meeting prefaced its minute on same-sex relationships with:
Our life is love, and peace, and tenderness; bearing one with another, and forgiving one another, and not laying accusations one against another, but praying for one another, and helping one another up with a tender hand.
–Isaac Pennington, 1667
See also other statements and minutes by NYYM Meetings and other Quaker bodies on this concern below, under Resources. See also statements by New England Yearly Meeting and Friends General Conference.
Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns "is a North American Quaker faith community that affirms that of God in all people. Gathering twice yearly for worship and play, we draw sustenance from each other and from the Spirit for our work and life in the world. We are learning that radical inclusion and radical love bring further light to Quaker testimony and life."
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