Monday, November 23, 2009

The "Gay Marriage" Issue

OK.  This is to show that I am not afraid of tackling the "big issues".  But also, I must remind you, dear Reader, that this is only my own opinion, and is not in any way trying to be an authoritative perspective.  I do, as usual, draw upon the Baha'i Writings, but make no claims to being "correct".

The reason I am addressing this topic is because it was a question.  The question itself was, "How do you feel about gay marriages?"

This is a very interesting question, and what I'd like to address is the complexity of the question itself, because that often seems to be overlooked.

In our society, and here I am speaking about Canada in particular, there are actually two marriages in one, both using the same term.  One is the legal institution of marriage, along with its ramifications, such as the impact on taxes and insurance.  The other is the religious marriage, conducted through the institutions of the faith involved.  This topic gets confusing for many of us because the same word is used to describe both.

In regards to the first issue, that of the legal definition of marriage, I am not concerned one way or the other.  We can call it a marriage, or a legal union, or anything else the law decides.  This is purely up to the lawmakers, and in some cases the voters, who decide on the law.  The legal benefits that come with this are, again, up to the lawmakers, and I support them in whichever way they decide.

Here I have to add an aside.  I believe that it is very important to support the government in all its decisions.  This is also true for decisions of the institutions of the Faith.

Why should we support the decisions?  I believe the Master said it best:  Though one of the parties may be in the right and they disagree that will be the cause of a thousand wrongs, but if they agree and both parties are in the wrong, as it is in unity the truth will be revealed and the wrong made right.


So, to me, it doesn't really matter whether a decision is good or bad, I will support it.  After all, I may disagree with it, but that doesn't mean I am right.  Or I may agree with it, and it may be a very bad decision.  But through the support of all involved, we will soon learn if it is a bad decision.

Aside done, for now.

Where was I?   Oh yes, the government making a law.

As far as the law goes, I am happy one way or the other.  Whatever they decide is the legal definition, and benefits, of what they call 'marriage', I support it.

Now, what about the religious institution of marriage?

That is a different matter entirely.

If someone is a follower of a faith path, regardless of which one it is, I firmly believe that they should be obedient to its laws and institutions.  If they adamantly disagree with it, then they should ask themselves why they are following it.

That being said, if a religion supports gay marriages, fine.  If not, fine.  I'm not certain why it is an issue.  If someone really disagrees with their faith's stance on an issue, change your mind or change your faith.

If it leads to persecution, however, one way or the other, then there is a concern.

I have seen too many friends of mine, who are homosexual, persecuted because someone else believes that being gay is wrong.  On the other hand, I have seen some other friends of mine who are ridiculed or abused by gay people because their faith disagrees with homosexuality, even if they themselves never said a word about it.  Which side is right?  As long as they are trying to impose their beliefs upon others, both are wrong.

This is one of the things I love about the Baha'i Faith: its laws are for Baha'is.

Although I strongly dislike alcohol, and even forbid it in my home, I will not condemn someone else for drinking.  They are not welcome in my home when they are drunk, nor are they allowed to have a drink in my home, but that is my personal decision.  If I am at their home for dinner, and they offer me a glass of wine, I will thank them for the kind offer and turn it down.  I would never for a moment think that they are wrong for having a drink.  It is, after all, their decision.

If two people wish to have a homosexual union, and their faith permits it, there is nothing that I would say against it.

The real issue here, as far as I am concerned, is what it means to be a follower of a faith.  The key word there is 'follower', as opposed to 'leader'.  If you truly believe that the faith you follow is from God and divinely inspired, how can you question it?  If you do, then doesn't that mean that you think you know more than God?  Hmm.  I think I see a problem there.

Of course, there are some faiths that allow for discussion on these issues, and the laws change with the times.  In that case, there is a clear forum for this discussion, and that is wonderful.

Oh, and questioning to better understand is also always a good thing.

But if you believe that you have to be a member of a particular faith, and you want everyone else to conform to your own understanding, then it could lead to trouble.

But that's just my opinion.  Who knows, I may be wrong.

20 comments:

  1. I have seen too many friends of mine, who are homosexual, persecuted because someone else believes that being gay is wrong. On the other hand, I have seen some other friends of mine who are ridiculed or abused by gay people because their faith disagrees with homosexuality, even if they themselves never said a word about it. Which side is right?
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    The gays are right and Bahais (or any religion) that remains silent about discrimination in their religions againsts gays... well they are wrong! Any more questions? Funny thing is, no one would even ask such a questions if we were discussing people remaining silent in a religious community if blacks were being discriminated against or poor people, or whatever. Bahaullah said the most beloved thing in God's eyes was justice- or did He mean to exclude religious communities?

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  2. "To regard homosexuals with prejudice and disdain would be entirely against the spirit of Bahá'í Teachings."

    From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, Sept. 11, 1995

    * * * * *

    Again, I will state "As long as they are trying to impose their beliefs upon others, both are wrong."

    But thanks for your observation about how remaining silent about discrimination is to perpetuate an injustice. I completely agree with you.

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  3. I like to talk about issues related to marriage, some time ago when I was in college studying psychology conducted a study called before marriage, where we found the main problems for which divorces happen ...

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  4. Then you must agree that the Bahai NSA of Guyana was wrong when they advised the government against allowing gays relationships to ever be officially recognized. You must also be against when the UK NSA in the 1990's advised the government against teaching homosexuality as just another part of human sexuality in the schools. You must also be against the UHJ calling gays "problem humans" who need to be fixed. Or maybe the UHJ leaving open the possibility in the future of altering the genetic makeup of a child in order to avoid it becoming gay. Please open up your eyes and dig deep in the leeters writtne by the Universal House of "Justice" on the topic of homosexuality. On the surface, sure they say don't be prejudice. But dig deeper and you'll see the homophobia.

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    1. I agree . . . and so would Peter Khan, the late member of the UHJ. In a talk in 1995, he stated that "Some say it is homophobia. But it is our standard." Personally, I find that statement honest, but it's not for me.

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  6. From my understanding of the Baha'i writings, I agree with most of what you said. I think accepting the decisions of the government is more complicated an issue than you give it, however. Baha'is are generally asked to 'obey the laws of the land.' However, there are times governments do things that Baha'is are encouraged by the institutions to actively seek change. Letter writing campaigns and UN representation about the Iranian gov't sponsored treatment of Baha'is in Iran is the most obvious example. Nonetheless, in an issue as complicated as homosexuality, I personally would not agree or disagree with government accepting civil unions, like any other legal contracts. 'Marriage' meanwhile is traditionally a religious institution and I still do not understand why secular governments preside over its recognition; that's for each religious institution to decide.

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  7. It seems to me, if I have understood your blog, then if a gay couple who were married (however this is defined) wanted to join the Bahai Faith, then they could without needing to breakup their marriage by having to divorce. Is this what you mean here by not discriminating?

    I don't understand your discussion of a religious marriage being significantly different in this type of situation as heterosexual married indivduals who become Bahais are not then asked to re-marry.

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  8. I know this is a relatively old blog post, but after reading it and all of the comments I am compelled to add my thoughts. Admittedly I am new to the understanding of the Baha'i faith, so please correct me if I make assumptions that do not align with the faiths belief system. To the originally posed question "how do you feel about gay marriage?", I feel as though you took the easy approach to a response, no opinion. You stated that when it concerns the Governmental recognition of same sex marriage it is up to what ever the government legally decides. While from a faith perspective it is up to the faith you've chosen. Therefore you hold no opinion on the subject at all, you leave it to others to decide for you. Governments are simple manifestions of people and governing laws are made or changed by the people, so an opinion must be formed one way or another. In essence we are all the law makers and both yours and my opinions must be brought to light, not passed off to others to decide. To my nieve and limited understanding, I thought that Baha'is had a duty toward promoting justice and preventing prejudice for all humanity to support universal equality and that the religion is founded to mold with society and scientific discovery. With those thoughts, from the legal perspective of marriage, there is an inherent injustice in offering certain "privileged" groups such heterosexual couples to legally marry and attain rights (i.e. Tax and insurance ramifications) not allowed to homosexual couples, which creates injustice and leads to prejudice as they will inevitably be deemed inferior. Much like the consequences resulting from the similar injustices brought about by laws governing differing rights for African Americans. This would tell me that Baha'is should at the least either support gay marriage on the basis of equality for all or support the elimination of legal marriage for the same reason. From a faith perspective, you are in line with my thoughts that you choose your faith and therefore gay marriage is a non issue when it comes to religious ceremony, as you can change to a faith that aligns with your beliefs. Inevitably led to understand that either, one, that you and the Baha'i faith do not recognize the injustice at play, two that the Baha'i faith does not actively work toward equality for all and the prevension of injustice as I thought, merely serving as passivists, three the Baha'i faith is just as stagnent as the religions of earlier times, which are unbending even with changes in society and science, or four even within the Baha'is faiths teachings against prejudice, homosexuals are not recognized as deserving of the same level of equality and justice.

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  9. Dear Anonymous,

    I sincerely hope that you will be able to read this response, as it is on an issue so close to my heart.

    Your comments are exactly right.

    When I say that what the government decides is not of overwhelming concern to me, that does not mean that I don't engage in the conversation (or debates) on the issue. In fact, I do my best to try and offer a perspective from looking at the spiritual issues.

    The issue of equality is exactly one of those principles that I acknowledge in this issue.

    As I mention elsewhere, I am not overly concerned whether or not the union in question is called "marriage". In fact, I think it is easier overall if it is not. What I am concerned about, though, is that the basic rights of the people involved are respected.

    It is manifestly unjust when one couple is allowed a tax break and another is not.

    It is manifestly unjust when one couple is allowed visiting rights in hospital when another is not.

    It is manifestly unjust when one couple is allowed to be seen in public together when another is not.

    And it is manifestly unjust when one group tries to impose their beliefs upon another. This last, however, works both ways. I do not think it fair when people of one belief say that homosexual couples are not allowed those rights enjoyed by other couples, nor do I think it fair when homosexuals try to force religious groups to change their own internal laws (which is very distinct from those external laws of society).

    As a Baha'i, I believe that it is my duty to work for the rights of every human being on this planet to the best of my ability. And I do not see this as being contradictory to my own obedience to the laws of the faith that I have chosen to follow.

    Thank you so much for your excellent comment. I truly appreciate it.

    With love and prayers,

    Mead

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  10. What i hate when people say to gays you need see a doctor they are not sick they have feelings for someone they love and in Buddhism we say love is universal if it are a woman and a man or a man and a man these are feelings.When you tell someone they cannot marry becoz they feel to someone of the same sex then they are sick themselves.PEACE

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    1. Dear Anonymous, please read my blog on 'curing gays' I hope it helps. http://justabahai.wordpress.com/2012/04/30/on-the-psychopathology-of-homosexuality/

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  11. This may be an older blog post, however, it is a very important topic to both society and the Baha'i community.

    I am a Baha'i. I understand what the law says and I understand what it says in the Baha'i Writings.

    The part I take great issue with is that gay Baha'is have been denied their Administrative rights due to the fact that they are openly gay.

    And now that marriage is legal in some countries and a few states in the United States, if one were to find the Baha'i Faith after 10 yrs. of LEGAL marriage, would they have to divorce? And I also DISAGREE with your comments concerning if one doesn't "believe" something in a religion, then they should find one they DO believe in.

    If a gay couple comes to a Baha'i fireside and recognize Baha'u'llah as the Messenger for today, they ARE Baha'i. There is no where else for them to go.

    The Most Great Sin in the Baha'i Faith is known to be backbiting. Worst than murder. If you google it, you would come up with countless quotes and Writings on the subject by our Faith's Central Figures. And there is only one reference "that I could find" where a letter written ON BEHALF of the Guardian condemns homosexuality. The Guardian says that anything written on His behalf does not have the same authority as if written Himself. And I have never seen anything written from Baha'u'llah or Abdul-Baha.

    Now, does that mean it should have no credence? Of course not. But perhaps that is more about the individual's relationship with God and just none of our business. It is THEIR journey. We have no right to even see this as a fault. We are not to judge.

    So, what are we to do? Go to the Writings!

    "O SON OF BEING!

    How couldst thou forget thine own faults and busy thyself with the faults of others? Whoso doeth this is accursed of Me."

    "Each of us is responsible for one life only, and that is our own. Each of us is immeasurably far from being “perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect: and the task of perfecting our own life and character is one that requires all our attention, our will-power and energy… On no subject are the Bahá’í teachings more emphatic that on the necessity to abstain from fault-finding, while being ever eager to discover and root out our own faults and overcome our own failings." (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 90)

    And after all of this typing I did, what do I think about all of this, very simply? We all mind our own business, concentrate on our own journey and relationship with God, love everyone, and put our efforts towards service and perhaps, concentrating our efforts to removing that Most Great Sin from our lives!

    Blessings, Terri

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    1. Thank you, Terri. What a great way to say all that. It is about our relationship to God, and avoiding backbiting at all costs.

      Mead

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    2. Dear Terri,

      I really like your comment on that issue since I'm a homosexual Bahai myself. Are you on Facebook? There is a Facebook group for gay Bahais and their friends. Just look for "LGBTQ Baha'is and Allies" or use this URL:
      https://www.facebook.com/groups/2256419606/

      Greetings,
      a gay Bahai.

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    3. hi
      what joy to find myself here.but about bacbiting the issue of gay is what bahais have to teach as teachers.does it mean when we meet a none bahai and talk to him/her about the writtings is some sort of backbitting. eg the do's and dont.drinking of alcohol site example of a neigbour and its effect on him.
      in my humble opiniun what ever ails the society is into the solution is back in the Writtings. Thanks

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  12. Terri, I agree with you as far as backbiting is concerned. However, I would like to point out to you some quotes, informatively rather than critically.

    The UHJ has stated that, with regards to the "subject of boys" verse in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, "Shoghi Effendi has interpreted this reference as a prohibition on all homosexual relations." See Lights of Guidance #1224.

    Furthermore, the UHJ itself has said "Bahá'í law restricts permissible sexual intercourse to that between a man and the woman to whom he is married" (Lights of Guidance #1225).

    Both of the above quotes were written by the UHJ directly, not on behalf of it. Therefore, they are authoritative, since the UHJ is infallible in the Bahá'í Faith.

    Regarding the denial of administrative rights of homosexual Bahá'ís, I don't see anything wrong with doing so per se. No one needs administrative rights to be a Bahá'í in heart and in spirit. Also, my understanding is that there is no law in the Faith that says administrative rights must be revoked from a Bahá'í just because he or she is homosexual. Nevertheless, National and Local Spiritual Assemblies can revoke administrative rights if they deem doing so is correct. Whether or not the decisions of the NSA's and LSA's are actually correct is not set in stone, since these institutions are fallible, unlike the UHJ. I think that the decision to deny administrative rights is done on a case-by-case basis. I wouldn't be surprised at all if some of the Spiritual Assemblies have decided, in some cases, to let homosexual Bahá'ís to keep their rights. Although I don't have any written proof of such instances, I do know that the UHJ explained that even a practicing homosexual can be a Bahá'í, as long as he or she overcome his or her struggle as a homosexual striving to live the Bahá'í life (again, see LoG #1225).

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    1. Two points in response to this: 1. Local Spiritual Assemblies do not have the right to impose sanctions such as the removal of administrative rights. This is a minor issue, of course, but can be very important when dealing with personality conflicts in a local community.

      2. As to the concept of the removal of administrative rights, the Universal House of Justice wrote, "We feel that each and every case should be reviewed on its own merits. In some cases it is clear that there is no alternative to the removal of voting rights as in the case of marriage without the consent of parents. In other cases, such as those involving flagrant immorality, the removal of voting rights should be resorted to only in rare cases. If the acts of immorality are not generally known and are discoverable only on investigation, a serious question is raised as to whether this immorality is 'flagrant'."

      The question, of course, arises about whether or not two people of the same gender living together, homosexual or not, constitutes any sort of flagrant violation. In the event of a homosexual couple living together, it would be up to the NSA to decide, for being homosexual is not against any law in the Baha'i Faith. (Read it in the Writings yourself if you question this.) Sexual intercourse outside the bounds of marriage, and flagrantly doing so, whatever that means, is another question altogether.

      (I'm sure I could have said all this better, but the beach is beckoning me, and I really like what has already been said in this interesting thread.)

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    2. The only Institution in the Faith that can remove voting rights is the NSA or UHJ at this time but the recommendation comes from the Assembly.

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  13. Oh the bahai africans from iran?

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