Chapter 16 » 16.03

The meaning of marriage

Marriage has a special status in Quaker practice. From the very beginning – for longer even than membership – Friends have regarded marriage as a state so momentous that it requires an explicit, solemn enactment in a meeting for worship. Friends understand marriage to be equally available to same-sex and opposite-sex couples.

Friends recognise marriage to be something quite distinct from simple cohabitation, no matter how loving. It is first and foremost a spiritual union, not merely an emotional or physical or legal one, although each of these aspects has its importance. Crucially, marriage involves an unconditional and express commitment, not only to one another, but equally of the couple reciprocally to the meeting, to the community, to society, and to God: the commitment to be a couple and to stay a couple. It is a commitment so profound that it must be made in public, witnessed in meeting, and recognised by the law of the land. Those who make it must fully intend the commitment to be lifelong; marriage is not a state that should be entered into or departed from lightly.

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