British Quakers And LGBTQ+

Quakers believe we are all equal and therefore embrace the equality of love.

Laurence Housman

Probably the earliest advocate among Quakers for LGBTQ+ acceptance was the playwright and illustrator Laurence Housman (1865 – 1959), who was openly homosexual. He published an untitled essay that described the hostile attitude of British society at the time towards gay men, part of which states:

“The precious balms of the righteous have broken many heads, and many hearts, and ruined many lives, I have a hope that, twenty-five years hence, their day of evil power will be gone; and that society may, at long last, have acquired sufficient common-sense to treat the problem less unintelligently, less cruelly.”

Laurence Housman

Houseman went on to found the British Society for the Study of Sex Psychology which was an organization that campaigned for the breaking of prejudices towards sexuality.

Towards A Quaker View Of sex

It wasn’t until the 1960s that the topic of LGBTQ+ became openly discussed among Quaker communities. This discussion within the Society of Friends was sparked by the publication of the booklet Towards a Quaker view of sex in 1963. Although published anonymously at the time by Quakers in Britain, the author was later revealed as the American civil rights and LGBTQ+ activist Bayard Rustin.

“It is the nature and quality of a relationship that matters… the same criteria seem to us to apply whether a relationship is heterosexual or homosexual.”

Towards a Quaker view of sex


After 50 years of LGBTQ+ acceptance, In 2009, Quakers in Britain chose to campaign for the right to marry same-sex couples in Quaker meetings. Their reasoning for this decision was published in the document We Are But Witnesses, which stated:

“Two hundred years ago, an earlier generation had yet to learn that the practice of slavery was an injustice to our fellow human beings. Today we are amazed that they did not recognise this until visionaries showed them that it was so. We believe that two hundred years from now, those who follow us will be equally astounded to discover that in the twenty-first century we had still to realise the full equality of lesbian and gay people.”

We Are But Witnesses

This was done with extensive consultation with Quakers around the country. In England and Wales this was achieved with the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act which passed in 2013; in Scotland with the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014.

On the meaning of marriage, in 2014, Quaker Rosie Bailey wrote for PinkNews:

“As human beings we long to experience love, to find it central in our lives; we want not only to be given love but to give it.

“Love liberates us from the prison of ourselves. The true measure of an intimate relationship is its degree of selfless love, a love that isn’t proprietorial or exploitative, but tender, responsible, committed, equal; a love that feeds its transforming messages of hope and happiness benevolently into society day after day.”

Rosie Bailey

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