For Quakers, we are all human and we all need love and care and have goodness within us. It doesn’t matter if you are male or female, black or white, gay or straight, Muslim or atheist, child or octogenarian, prime minister or murderer.
This belief in the equality of all is fundamental to Quaker practice.
When Quakers first started in 17th century England they recognised that men were dominant. So they established separate men’s and women’s business meetings to give women an equal say. We don’t need separate meetings today and women can hold any position including being a spokesperson for Quakers in other forums.
Many early Quakers ended up in prison because of their non-conformist ideas and were horrified at prison conditions. Quakers still lobby for better treatment of prisoners including rehabilitation and alternatives to imprisonment.
Indigenous issues have been a major concern since the 1830s when two British Quakers came to inspect whether convicts and Indigenous people were well treated. Quakers work actively for equal rights for Indigenous peoples, from land rights to education.
Quakers value all committed relationships equally whether heterosexual or homosexual. Equality for same-sex couples is an issue that Quakers have publicly supported for over 40 years and Australian Quaker Meetings are happy to marry same-sex Quaker couples.
Quakers don’t believe that anyone else is needed to marry a couple. Marriage for Quakers is two people making a commitment to one another.
In fact, Quakers have no ‘authority figures’ – no priests or clergy to tell us what to do – so each person contributes to worship and decision making, whether vocally or in spirit.
Each Quaker has an equal right to contribute to any decision being made. Decisions are made in a process similar to consensus. Quakers refer to it as ‘seeking the will of God’.
We are all equal but different and those differences should be celebrated. Our aim as Quakers is to appeal to the goodness inside each person and to help it to grow.
See also the First Nations Peoples Committee, and our statements on marriage equality, which includes the recent Open Letter on Marriage Equality, written in light of the national postal survey being conducted on marriage rights.