Position statement following the WPUK meeting at Norwich Friends Meeting House on 25th Feb 2019

We are sorry that some members of the local LGBT+ community felt hurt by Norwich Quakers agreeing to the hire of their premises by Women’s Place UK for a meeting. Their protests have given us a keener awareness of their position with regard to WPUK.

We received a request for the use of a room for a discussion of women’s rights in light of the proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act, accompanied by a warning that such meetings had previously been targeted by activists and that organisers had been personally attacked. We decided that an exchange of views on this sensitive issue is important and should not be allowed to be silenced by the threat of violent disruption. We stand by this decision.

We acknowledge that the protest outside the building was peaceful. However, setting off of the fire alarm and disconnecting the lights during the event could have led to a panic and to people getting hurt. We do not condone protest that puts people at risk. We also noted the chair’s provocative and unnecessary directions for the use of male and female toilets and took this up with her in writing the following day.

The Quaker Testimony to Equality, which upholds the equal value of each individual, is core to our relationships. Following the meeting, we find ourselves in the midst of a conflict that is new to us.

We acknowledge that the proposed change to the Gender Recognition Act is both important and divisive, and that some people are experiencing distress and a sense of discrimination as a result of issues emerging from discussions around it. In the coming months we will take steps to better understand the issues and fears involved by inviting individuals affected to tell us of their experiences.

Elders and Clerks of Norwich Quaker Meeting

June 2019

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