This is pretty bold, and once again, makes the U.S. look like equality troglodytes. The Quaker church (the Religious Society of Friends) already blesses couples who register civil partnerships, which are the functional equivalent of marriage under the law, but it is still a separate entity from civil marriage. Not only will they now affirm and bless religious marriages for same-sex couples, the Quakers will request that the government offer civil marriage to all couples.

At its yearly meeting, held at the University of York, the church opted to extend this to same-sex weddings. Quakers will ask the Government to change the law, which does not recognise gay marriage, to allow Quaker registering officers to register same-sex partnerships in the same way as marriages.

Michael Hutchinson, of Quakers in Britain, said: "Many of our meetings have told us that there are homosexual couples who consider themselves to be married and believe this is as much a testimony of divine grace as a heterosexual marriage. They miss the public recognition of this in a religious ceremony."

During this week's meeting, Quakers spoke about their personal experiences of committed relationships, agreeing that "whereas there was a clear, visible path to celebration and recognition for opposite sex couples" the same was not always true for those in same-sex relationships, a minute released by the church said.

It said: "This open sharing of personal experience has moved us and added to our clear sense that, 22 years after the prospect was first raised... we are being led to treat same-sex committed relationships in the same way as opposite-sex marriages, reaffirming our central insight that marriage is the Lord's work and we are but witnesses. The question of legal recognition by the state is secondary."

Of course this will send fundie red alert signals off pronto, because the last thing they want is religious affirmation of same-sex marriages -- it calls into question religious interpretation of one's holy text, and pits religions against one another for self-perceived "moral" standing. Naturally, the conundrum in the U.S. is that there are churches that bless same-sex unions and would do so for unions that represent full marriage equality (United Church of Christ, Unitarian Universalist Church, and The Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches to name a few). The problem with this for the fundies is that it places their bigotry activity (ballot initiatives, amendments, etc.) fore-square in the position of religious discrimination against other religions -- and that is unconstitutional. This needs to be pointed out over and over.

The whole reason we have freedom of religion is so these bible beaters are free to discriminate in any way they want inside the four walls of their church -- they have no right to tell the state to place the values of one belief system over another under civil law. Of course they know this, and they know in the end, they are going to lose in the courts. But until that time they are prepared to make our lives miserable and are engaged for the long haul, to stall equality by putting up legal roadblocks for as long as they can, preying upon ignorance and fear in their communities.