h1

“Gays can’t marry, and that’s not discrimination”

August 16, 2013

I’ve heard this and similar phrases from a Baha’i so often now, I could brush this off as a cliché if it weren’t for the fact that in most Baha’i communities gays are still treated differently. For example, Udo Schaefer in his 2009 book, “Bahá’í Ethics in Light of Scripture: Doctrinal fundamentals, volume 2” writes that “…a homosexual relationship, … by definition transgresses the will of God and is intrinsically immoral,” (page 213) whereas actually morality or immorality depends on what is done, whether the couple is married (of course marriage doesn’t necessarily make a relationship moral), whether there is a breach of trust or other harm to others.

According this author of a book on Bahai Ethics, immorality is treated as a given for a homosexual couple, while I assume, for a heterosexual couple, it is a possibility that can be avoided. The differences might seem like nothing to a straight person, whose identity is never associated with anything called ‘immorality.’ In fact many a Baha’i has said to me that they do not discriminate and to prove this they say “I have gay friends” or “I have employed gays” but “gay Bahais can’t marry.”

If a Bahai says to you, “marriage is only between a man and woman” – and you don’t say anything, then that Bahai assumes, quite reasonably, that you agree that gays do not have the same rights and responsibilities as any other person, and that it is OK for a Bahai to say so as a matter of fact. If you didn’t agree, you would have said something. You would have at least said something about Baha’u’llah’s teachings being for all of humanity and not just for the straights in society.
Even making a plea for compassion would have indicated that you didn’t agree with a blanket statement that excludes a significant minority.

Such blanket statements made express a prejudice, and a position of power in straight dominated society. Saying to someone, ‘you cannot,’ and then saying ‘this is not discrimination’ is worse than saying, ‘well I do see that this is discrmination, but…’

If people hear Bahais saying that gays are diseased or immoral or “deviant” (Schaefer, Ethics, Vol. 2 p. 205) and other Bahais do not challenge this, they will assume that the norm in that Bahai community is that gays are not given to be given the same respect as any one else.

Some say we are members of the Baha’i community first and then gay, black, First Nation, Māori, or women after this. This only applies in so far as these minority groups are not discriminated against in the Bahai community. But where there is in fact discrimination, those discriminated against will naturally say, first of all, I am me, and possibly a member of the Baha’i community after that.

So how can a Baha’i community make the focus more on equality, on the individual irrespective of their orientation?

To start with, remove all negative public mention of homosexuality.

In North America it would mean renaming “BNASAA” (the “Bahá’í Network on Aids, Sexuality, Addictions and Abuse” ((www.bnasaa.org. Accessed 11 August 2013.) which lumps homosexuality with illnesses. In doing this they could focus on their target group, those with illness, and their material which only presents homosexuality from a viewpoint of being problematic can be removed.

Since when is sexuality an illness?

Bahais need to stop putting homosexuality into the category of ‘illness’ or ‘disability.’

A proactive position would be for communities to state that individuals of all creeds, races and oriention are treated with equality.

This would inform gays and those opposed to discrimination on principle that this Bahai community is working at removing discrimination against gays.

After all a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi states that “Bahá’ís should certainly not belong to clubs or societies that practice any form of discrimination.” (From a letter of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of South America, April 23, 1957).

Prejudice makes me sick, illustration by www.sonjavank.com/design. Free to use.
 

“Prejudice against homosexuals
is a part of any system
that labels it
an illness”

D.W.

Detail of a cartoon by Mike Luckovich, click to see the whole cartoon.

Click to view the whole cartoon.

Click to read in a pop up window.

Click to read in a pop up window.

What is so sad is that Bahais use the argument ‘gays can’t marry’ as justification for creating otherness whereas it shouldn’t even be part of the discussion to start with.

A legal disability is not a moral disabilty. So if a person is gay, they and their boyfriend or girlfriend should be given the same respect that would be given to a straight Bahai. And a gay person’s identity to be viewed as a valued “[d]iversity of hues, form and shape, [which] enricheth and adorneth the garden and heighteneth the effect thereof.” (Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 291)

"Gay marriage"Gay Bahais are judged in ways that blacks used to be judged. Gay Bahais often hide their sexuality in order “to pass” and so avoid this prejudice. And who could blame them?
Sometimes they criticise those gay Bahais who are more open. A gay Bahai even wrote, when another gay Bahai lost his voting rights, that it was his own fault for being too open.
Dates of repeal of US anti-miscegenation laws by state
But Baha’u’llah wrote, Be thou of the people of hell-fire, but be not a hypocrite.
Cited in a compilation on Trustworthiness. Also in Compilation of compilations, Volume 2, page 337

The parallels with race and racism are close. A mixed marriage was once considered impossible and immoral.

If Bahai communities are going to live up to the U.H.J.’s 2010 request:
“Therefore, to regard those with a homosexual orientation with prejudice or disdain would be against the spirit of the Faith. … a Baha´i is exhorted to be “an upholder and defender of the victim of oppression”, and it would be entirely appropriate for a believer to come to the defense of those whose fundamental rights are being denied or violated.
(Letter from the U.H.J. to individual, 27 October 2010) they first need to realise that there is prejudice against gays and to deal with it proactively. Looking the other way only keeps the prejudice unchallenged. A minimum would be a policy of “compassion,” if “equality” is too big a step for that community.

A bad example was in June 2013, when the Bahais of Springfield, Missouri, responded to a survey on prejudice and social conduct for the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Citizens’ Task Force. The Bahai community chose not to support adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the city non-discrimination policy. What is unique here is that the results of this survey were published.

I’m sure that the Bahais on that L.S.A., when making those choices to represent the community, thought that by voting for no change, they were being neutral. The other option, which they did not vote for was for more effort to reduce discrimination against homosexuals in regards to work and housing. I will write another blog (when I have better access to the internet) on the details of this case because there are many lessons to be learnt here.

The biggest mistake the L.S.A. made as I see it, was to think that a stance of no change was the same as not discriminating. For someone from a majority point of view where their own lifestyle or values are not under attack or criticism, the status quo often seems neutral. After all, their kids are not laughed at for having different parents or refused housing because of the fear that the neighbours might complain.

There’s plenty in the Bahais writings and teachings to support a stance where Bahais should bend over backwards to help minorities in society. “Be ye the helpers of every victim of oppression, the patrons of the disadvantaged. (Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 3)

So what are you doing as an individual to help reduce the discrimination in your Bahai community (and then in society)?

At the next feast, I suggest that some of you play a role as gay Bahais and ask the community for support.

Ask frank questions of each other, and investigate why a gay Bahai or a gay visitor might not feel welcome. Discuss how you can reframe your language so that any individual who doesn’t fit the framework of married and straight, can feel more comfortable.

If you dare, discuss sexuality. It is not the same as sex and has nothing to do with a misuse of power over minors (pederasty), which is what Baha’u’llah described as shameful.

Discuss how you will react when a person who is in a same sex marriage wishes to join. Discuss what the options are for Bahai children who find they are gay and the community be supportive.
cartoon_double_standards

Be clear about what you as a community should not do in these situations.
And keep Baha’u’llah’s teachings in mind – teachings such as :

– the value of the inputs of minorities (“Consider the flowers of a garden: though differing in kind, colour, form and shape, yet, inasmuch as they are refreshed by the waters of one spring, revived by the breath of one wind, invigorated by the rays of one sun, this diversity increaseth their charm, and addeth unto their beauty. Thus when that unifying force, the penetrating influence of the Word of God, taketh effect, the difference of customs, manners, habits, ideas, opinions and dispositions embellisheth the world of humanity. This diversity, this difference is like the naturally created dissimilarity and variety of the limbs and organs of the human body, for each one contributeth to the beauty, efficiency and perfection of the whole.” (Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 291, my emphasis),

– and of individuals (Each leaf has its own particular identity … its own individuality as a leaf – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 285)

– being true to yourself (True loss is for him whose days have been spent in utter ignorance of his self.) – Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 156,
“Know thou that all men have been created in the nature made by God”Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 149
“The essence of all that We have revealed for thee is Justice, is for man to free himself from idle fancy and imitation, discern with the eye of oneness His glorious handiwork, and look into all things with a searching eye” Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 156

– that we are created through love, for love (I knew My love for thee; therefore I created thee,) Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words, nr 3., (Love is …the vital bond inherent … in the realities of things. Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 27)

– shunning hypocrisy, Say: Honesty, virtue, wisdom and a saintly character redound to the exaltation of man, while dishonesty, imposture, ignorance and hypocrisy lead to his abasement. By My life! Man’s distinction lieth not in ornaments or wealth, but rather in virtuous behaviour and true understanding. Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 57

– and that social and religious laws change. (…things are useful in accordance with the exigencies of the time. Time changes, and when time changes the laws have to change. But remember, these are not of importance; they are the accidentals of religion. ‘Abdul-Baha, From the middle of a talk given at to congregation in the synagogue, the Temple Emanuel, (Emmanu-El) in San Francisco, 1912, in Star of the West Vol. 3, No. 13, p. 3, which corresponds to The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 365. See my blog for more context for this quotation.)

15 comments

  1. With respect to the first sentences of your third paragraph you are making statements expressly in opposition to the pronouncements of Baha’u’llah’s successor (WOB 20) the Universal House of Justice, the body designed to supplement and apply His laws (WOB 145). And I will not be silent about it.


    • Brent, the Universal House of Justice is not the successor to the manifestation of God, Baha’u’llah. The Universal House of Justice is the head of the Baha’i community. I suggest you find a deepened Bahai to discuss the covenant with.
      Your assumption that this blog opposes the Universal House of Justice is wrong. In the past you have misrepresented what is in another posting on this blog in two letters of complaint against me to the Universal of Justice. If you are going to write another letter of complaint against me, at least have the decency to quote whole sections of my blog rather than rephrasing things in your own words.
      Your previous misrepresentations showed great lack of integrity. You did allow me to see these two letters of complaint that you made against me and from that I understand and agree with the Universal House of Justice’s response. However you only allowed me to see your letters of complaint on the condition that I would not make these public. Anyone who wishes, could see how you have misrepresented my words, but I wouldn’t expect the Universal House of Justice to take their valuable time to check to see if what you wrote is what is on my blog.


  2. Totally off base on this! Homosexuality is a deviant form of human sexuality, however we can still love and defend the individual if he is the victim of oppression because of his misaligned orientation. Compassion for the individual does not change the essential deviancy of the homosexual lifestyle. These are two separate issues.
    It is the homosexual lifestyle that stands condemned, and has always been condemned throughout history by the Messengers of God because it creates all kinds of social problems.
    Marriage is a divine institution that brings new human beings into this world in a safe and loving environment. It is an instrument for the healthy continuation of the species. Homosexuality is the total negation of this God given design. No amount of twisted logic will change this ageless reality.
    The frightful aspect of this LGBT dialogue that is becoming more and more prominent, is that the ‘powers that be’ are using the gay agenda to makes us all more and more dependent on the nanny state, eroding our personal freedoms and dignity by destroying the family, and enslaving us to the war demented distopia that we see around us.
    Times change but disease is always disease.
    Peace to you. Asalam ale kom. Shalom.


    • B you wrote: “It is the homosexual lifestyle that stands condemned, and has always been condemned throughout history by the Messengers of God because it creates all kinds of social problems.”

      Some examples please of how homosexuals have caused social problems! And can you show how this outweighs the social problems caused by heterosexuals?

      You also wrote: “Marriage is a divine institution that brings new human beings into this world in a safe and loving environment. It is an instrument for the healthy continuation of the species. Homosexuality is the total negation of this God given design.”

      Well you have missed the boat here. Many of my friends in same sex unions have already raised amazing kids. Kids that impress me, because growing up aware that their parents are unusual, they seem particularly responsible and aware young people.


  3. Read Juan Coles’ discussion on “Baha’u’llah’s Commentary on a verse of Rumi” (who was in-love with Shams [the God within Shams]). http://www.h-net.org/~bahai/notes/vol3/rumi.htm


  4. Amazing how apologists for a deviant lifestyle blather away about human rights yet they viciously attack the health and happiness of 98% of the population.
    Any fair minded observer can examine the evidence. Those who truly suffer from a sexual disorientation deserve our care and understanding. Sadly however this phenomenon which has been with us for ever, has been seized upon by a perverse demonic elite in order to debase the human race, disintegrate the family and bring about chaos. The fact that some governments such as in Canada and Germany have relented to these forces shows just how powerful they are. It resolves into a struggle between the forces of good and evil, of civilization and ruin. They would separate us from the God given fabric of creation. The writings of the Messengers of God are sufficient, and the lifestyles that They promote are our best defense. Marriage between a man and a woman is described as a Fortress for Well Being. The love canal and sewer are apt metaphors. Though they are so close one brings new life. The other brings disease and decay. This is not a question of hate or phobia as the exponents of this twisted logic would maintain. This is a question of knowing ourselves, of knowing what leads to our elevation and what leads to our abasement.
    Peace to you.


    • B, this is the last time I’ll allow a comment of yours here that is just a rant – meaning there is no attempt to back up your views. There are plenty of other places for ranting. I prefer to try and maintain some level of discussion or debate on this blog.


  5. I am a Sociologist, it’s NOT discrimination, because religious law says man and woman only. It doesn’t allow marriage between two 5 year olds either, that’s proper not to whether they want to or not!

    Sent from my iPhone


    • Chris, in the future please quote from the Bahai Writings or other sources to show how sociologists wouldn’t consider treating people differently based on orientation as discrimination, so we can have a discussion. Just expressing your views is ranting. You say ‘I am a Socioligist …’ and then you confuse the rights of children with homosexuality??


  6. I can’t say I totally agree — although I wouldn’t like to be lumped in with the authors of previous comments (as I by no means think you’re opposing the Faith or its institutions by simply stating your opinion)

    My own views on sexuality — not just homosexuality — are changing as I’ve spoken with more people and refined my own views of the various gender theories that contribute to contemporary discussion. Before I’d state anything definitively on my own blog, I’m going to need to research the general history of what we deem “homosexuality” and what psychological perspectives are available for gays and lesbians in various cultures before now.

    I don’t see sexuality as essential to identity, with the exception of dominant groups *forcing* individuals to identify with sexuality by reducing their character and personality to acts of sex when they discriminate against them. Because of this, I don’t think it’s prejudice to claim sexual acts are sinful — it’s only prejudice when we refuse to acknowledge individuals exist beyond acts. Even the Guardian said he “couldn’t say” what would happen to Gays who are perfect Baha’is in every other way. For those reasons I think we should take solace in the Hidden Words: “breathe not the sins of others so long as thou are thyself a sinner”

    Sexuality is not a part of culture, and I don’t think it should qualify as “diversity..” It is a repeated set of actions meant to increase emotional attachment between individuals, as well as the result of physiology. In that regard it’s no different from hunger, sleeping, etc., and should thus be restricted to higher functioning purposes.

    That’s why I can’t see our standards as discriminatory. Claiming ” we approve of monogamous unions between one man and one woman” is not the same as saying “we disapprove of homosexual ones.” We are not supposed to actively oppose gay unions; we can only proclaim and bless heterosexual ones. I think the discrimination is largely the result of people not understanding that difference, and assuming our positive position is the same as “opposing” gays, which it is not. To restrict recognition is not to discriminate unless we intentionally misunderstand restricting recognition as the basis for a principle of opposition, which it isn’t anymore than restricting the UHJ to men is no valid basis for discrimination against women.

    And most Bahá’ís I know are totally fine with civil unions. I am now finishing up a research project in which I involved the Bahá’í community, and I’m estimating that 80-90% of those I requested surveys from support civil marriage.


    • Yes Hank, you wrote: “I don’t see sexuality as essential to identity, with the exception of dominant groups *forcing* individuals to identify with sexuality by reducing their character and personality to acts of sex when they discriminate against them.”

      And that’s the main point of my blog. Discrimination makes sexuality an issue to do with identity, much like being female does, or being non-western does. That is: when minorities are discriminated against then that aspect of that individual becomes the issue. In days of old, being left handed would have been the issue and in my childhood it was when I was punished for using my left hand for writing. Using being left handed is relevant here because I felt ashamed of being born wrong – ashamed of not being able to overcome my nature in order to write with the right hand like the other normal people. Then I was punished for not being able to write but being able to draw (they let me draw with my left hand🙂 So as a child and teenager being left handed was a huge part of my identity and it still is. Only these days I know that if anyone says something about my being left handed as a form of handicap, I know it is a stupid and ignorant comment. And such a comment would not be supported by any Baha’i community. In fact Baha’u’llah’s teachings are full of the importance of diversity. We need people of difference to have a voice so that society is more humane.

      You wrote: “Sexuality is not a part of culture, and I don’t think it should qualify as “diversity..”

      Your comment implies that diversity is not related to the individual (Abdul-Baha spoke on the importance of the individual) and that culture is collective.
      There are many types of diversity that are not part of culture such as intelligence🙂, and I wonder if being lefthanded would qualify as ‘culture’ You need to show me how sexuality is not part of culture in order to make an argument. Your comment as it stands makes no sense to me. It might be a good idea to write a blog on sexuality + culture one day, if I find time.

      You wrote: “Even the Guardian said he “couldn’t say” what would happen to Gays who are perfect Baha’is in every other way.”
      Please post the quotation you are referring to. As I recall you are referring to a Letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi which has a different status to Bahai Scripture, let alone to anything penned by Shoghi Effendi himself. See:
      “The infallibility of the Guardian is confined to matters which are related strictly to the Cause and interpretation of the teachings; he is not an infallible authority on other subjects, such as economics, science, etc. When he feels that a certain thing is essential for the protection of the Cause, even if it is something that affects a person personally, he must be obeyed, but when he gives advice, such as that he gave you in a previous letter about your future, it is not binding; you are free to follow it or not as you please.”

      17 October 1944, Letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, Directives from the Guardian, p. 33-34

      And what Shoghi Effendi wrote himself in regards to the status of his own texts.

      “From these statements it is made indubitably clear and evident that the Guardian of the Faith has been made the Interpreter of the Word and that the Universal House of Justice has been invested with the function of legislating on matters not expressly revealed in the teachings.
      The interpretation of the Guardian, functioning within his own sphere, is as authoritative and binding as the enactments of the International House of Justice, whose exclusive right and prerogative is to pronounce upon and deliver the final judgment on such laws and ordinances as Bahá’u’lláh has not expressly revealed. Neither can, nor will ever, infringe upon the sacred and prescribed domain of the other.”

      (Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 150-51)

      Thanks for taking the time to comment – there are many things there for me to think about. I’d never heard any one suggest that sexuality falls outside the sphere of diversity because it is not part of culture before. Is this something you came up with as an argument or is this something you’ve heard from other Bahais? Just curious.


  7. WOW, how wonderful and powerful this post is! It’s convinced me even more to get back into the community and be “visable” which will hopefully generate some good dialogue among the friends. If it comes down to my being threatened with “sanctions” being brought against me and I ultimately have my voting rights removed, so be it. Maybe that’s part of what it will take for this situation to change! Imagine if all the LGBT Baha’is both in the community and those who have left and come back, start becoming active again, even with our voting rights taken away, how it would get the fair minded true Baha’is to shake off the shackles on complacency and possibly help in the change that’s so desperately needed….


    • I’m glad it has helped you William, but at any stage please don’t feel bad if you choose to retreat as my Hispanic friend has done. Trust me he worked very hard as an out of the closet gay Bahai in his community, and in the end for his own sanity he had to leave. Even in my own community, and all these Bahais are very pleasant people, I’m told point blank things such as “homosexuality is condemned.” If a Bahai hears such statements over and over again, then all the sweet talk in the world doesn’t help. It doesn’t help because that person has made a statement as if it is a fact. It doesn’t help if no one shows support, even in private. It doesn’t help if no one stands up and says: “I don’t agree that homosexuality is condemned” or even asks “What does this mean?” or “Where does this teaching come from?” – if they think it is a Bahai teaching.
      The fact that so many Bahai’s appear to accept that homosexuality is wrong in some manner is a reflection of existing prejudices, otherwise, surely, just as on the issue of race, other Bahais would immediately be showing how Baha’u’llah’s teachings for equality and justice apply to everyone and those few who do harbour prejudice would keep this to themselves.

      ALL BAHAI’s regardless of their orientation need to work at removing prejudice towards gay and lesbian Bahais, and it starts by acknowledging there is prejudice and working at this.


  8. Thank you dear heart for your guidance and input…Of course I refuse to set myself up for more heart-break than I can handle. Reading some of the posts you have here from other Baha’is and their fantatical stance regarding this issue, well,it is truly frightening. I can’t believe that they call themselves Baha’is…I talked with my dear friend David Langness and he felt that being openly gay in the Baha’i Faith at this point is like being a Baha’i that has had their voting rights removed, althought they haven’t. He may have me write an article for his website about what it’s been like living as a Baha’i in a happy, loving, gay relationship for 21 years. I will love to do it..I know what I’m up against, and that’s fine…I’ll see how it goes and and if it gets too crazy again, I will absolutely fold up my tent and quietly go off into the night… keep you posted…big hugs


  9. If I may add something here, my heart is so heavy reading these posts from what I believe are well meaning Baha’is. I know the delimma of coming from a fanatical fundamentalist Baha’i point of view because I was exactly like that for many years. A fundamentalist feels between a rock and a hard place when what they consider to be the absolute unchangable word of God is challenged by the “changes and chances” of global evolution. Yet, I believe there is always hope because I changed from that mind-set, and if it could happen to me, it can happen for anyone…As far as the topic of homosexual rights for gays in the Baha’i community and whether the current stand via the House of Justice will ever change in favor of the gay and lesbian Baha’is, I believe in my soul that yes, it will change because the forces of history will bring a mind-change to that august body. I do believe fully that they are kind, compassionate, understanding believers with a very difficult task, the task of governing the Baha’i World at a time when the world is so divided on so many issues. They must look at the global consequences of how any guidance they give will affect the Baha’i commmunity in various parts of the world. Let’s say for discussion sake that the House of Justice came out today stating that gays and lesbians are to be accepted in the Faith completely on equal footing with the rest of the believers and that gay and lesbian marriage is now valid in the Faith and to be cherished…What type of reaction, at this time in world history would this decree be greeted with, especially in countries like Iran, Iraq, Afganistan, Russia,many countries in Africa and the list goes on and on…Would this put the Baha’i communities of those countries in an even more dangerous position? I think we all know the answer. So, at this point in my little Baha’i life, I will be a happy and joyful being, I will be out and proud as a gay Baha’i and I will embrace those Baha’i brothers and sisters that feel somehow I am a defect and need to remain silent…I will love you and respectfully, I will not remain silent. Change can only come through the clash of differing opinions…love to you all



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: