Can a rainbow be partisan?

June 30, 2015
A Rainbow with the Bahai Ringstone symbol designed by Jesse McBride.

A Rainbow with the Bahai Ringstone symbol designed by Jesse Mcbride.

There is a flurry of rainbows on facebook, in celebration of the US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) decision on June 26, 2015, that 14th Amendment’s due process and equal protection clauses require states to license same-sex marriages and to recognize same-sex marriages lawfully licensed and performed in other US states.

In a Bahai run group, a Bahai stated that Baha’is publicly supporting gay rights will lead to grave consequences in other countries. It is an argument I have heard many times before, and it holds no water. The fact that our international administration is seated in Israel and that Baha’is believe in a messenger of God after Muhammad are much stronger reasons for any Muslim to be upset at Bahais. We do not hear of Bahais saying, we must stop public statements of belief in Baha’u’llah do we? On the contrary, if Bahais were seen as were a source of comfort or safety, in countries where gays and lesbians are oppressed, that would do wonders for our image as a religion that preaches equality and justice. I am not saying Bahais must be defenders for the oppressed, but it sounds like a good idea to me.

Rainbow flag and the nine pointed star. The star is a symbol often used by Bahais as a metaphoro for unity in diversity. The design is by Jesse Mcbride.

Rainbow flag and the nine pointed star. The star is a symbol often used by Bahais as a metaphoro for unity in diversity. The design is by Jesse McBride.

Then the administrator of another Bahai-run group objected to the flurry of rainbows, arguing that it was divisive, that the rainbow flag represents an ideology of a special interest group instead of representing the broad global needs that the Baha’i Faith aims to serve – ranging from the equality of men and women, elimination of prejudice to education for all children and the eradication of poverty.

Clearly these Bahais have missed the point of the rainbow flag symbol because a celebration for equality and justice for gay and lesbians is also a celebration of the diversity of humanity. Celebrating this does not reduce the equality and justice available to heterosexuals. The assumption made by these Bahais is that a celebration of gay and lesbian rights is something just for gays and lesbians.. This is like saying gender equality only benefits women, but it’s as clear as the noon day sun that when women have equality, society benefits – men and women benefit, not just women. So the flag is only divisive for those who do not believe in equality and justice for all of humanity.

I finish by quoting a few excerpts written by the SCOTUS judges:
“The history of marriage is one of both continuity and change…. For example, marriage was once viewed as an arrangement by the couple’s parents based on political, religious, and financial concerns; but by the time of the Nation’s founding it was understood to be a voluntary contract between a man and a woman…. As the role and status of women changed, the institution further evolved. Under the centuries-old doctrine of coverture, a married man and woman were treated by the State as a single, male-dominated legal entity…. As women gained legal, political, and property rights, and as society began to understand that women have their own equal dignity, the law of coverture was abandoned….

[T]he Court has long held the right to marry is protected by the Constitution… It cannot be denied that this Court’s cases describing the right to marry presumed a relationship involving opposite-sex partners. The Court, like many institutions, has made assumptions defined by the world and time of which it is a part…

The four principles and traditions to be discussed demonstrate that the reasons marriage is fundamental under the Constitution apply with equal force to same-sex couples.

A first premise of the Court’s relevant precedents is that the right to personal choice regarding marriage is inherent in the concept of individual autonomy…. A second principle in this Court’s jurisprudence is that the right to marry is fundamental because it supports a two-person union unlike any other in its importance to the committed individuals. … A third basis for protecting the right to marry is that it safeguards children and families and thus draws meaning from related rights of childrearing, procreation, and education…. Fourth and finally, this Court’s cases and the Nation’s traditions make clear that marriage is a keystone of our social order …

Excluding same-sex couples from marriage thus conflicts with a central premise of the right to marry. Without the recognition, stability, and predictability marriage offers, their children suffer the stigma of knowing their families are somehow lesser. They also suffer the significant material costs of being raised by unmarried parents, relegated through no fault of their own to a more difficult and uncertain family life. The marriage laws at issue here thus harm and humiliate the children of same-sex couples. …

[B]y virtue of their exclusion from that institution, same-sex couples are denied the constellation of benefits that the States have linked to marriage. This harm results in more than just material burdens. Same-sex couples are consigned to an instability many opposite-sex couples would deem intolerable in their own lives. As the State itself makes marriage all the more precious by the significance it attaches to it, exclusion from that status has the effect of teaching that gays and lesbians are unequal in important respects. It demeans gays and lesbians for the State to lock them out of a central institution of the Nation’s society….

Many who deem same-sex marriage to be wrong reach that conclusion based on decent and honorable religious or philosophical premises, and neither they nor their beliefs are disparaged here. But when that sincere, personal opposition becomes enacted law and public policy, the necessary consequence is to put the imprimatur of the State itself on an exclusion that soon demeans or stigmatizes those whose own liberty is then denied….

Finally, it must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned. The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered. The same is true of those who oppose same-sex marriage for other reasons. In turn, those who believe allowing same-sex marriage is proper or indeed essential, whether as a matter of religious conviction or secular belief, may engage those who disagree with their view in an open and searching debate. The Constitution, however, does not permit the State to bar same-sex couples from marriage on the same terms as accorded to couples of the opposite sex.”
-The excerpts above come from religionclause.blogspot.com

See Sen McGlinn’s blog on some implications of SCOTUS in Obergefell for the policies of Bahai institutions.



  1. Two Jewish responses to the decision:

    Steve Fox, chief executive, Central Conference of American Rabbis:

    “As Jews, we believe we are all formed in God’s image. This compels us to extend and recognize the same rights to everyone in our community, including individuals who identify as straight, gay, lesbian, or transgender. For many years, Reform Judaism rabbis have called for equal rights for all members of our communities, and we see today’s Supreme Court decision on marriage equality as a huge moral victory for the United States.”

    Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America:

    “We reiterate the historical position of the Jewish faith, enunciated unequivocally in our Bible, Talmud and Codes, which forbids homosexual relationships and condemns the institutionalization of such relationships as marriages. Our religion is emphatic in defining marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman. Our beliefs in this regard are unalterable. At the same time, we note that Judaism teaches respect for others and we condemn discrimination against individuals.


  2. X wrote: “I have to say that religious reaction in general to gay people getting equal rights is about as expected.
    For thousands of years, religions have judged, segregated, persecuted, killed and enslaved with the full backing of their society/government of the time. That is now changing. Country by country, religion is being stripped of its power to terrorize anyone except its own willing flock. This loss of total privilege and power, of course, is not pleasing to religious leaders and their fearful followers. They are reacting as we would expect them to — poorly.

    Based on comments I have seen on general Baha’i online groups, the reaction is similar. Equal rights for gay people is seen as a loss for religion and they are tightening the circle of internal fear instead of embracing the expansion of civil rights. I have never felt more distant from my religion of birth than I do right now. The Baha’i vision of a world of justice and equality does not include me and my partner and my friends even after my own country has finally acknowledged my equal rights. When I was a child, my religion was way AHEAD of my government on equal rights; now it is way BEHIND my government on equal rights. My government, which does not have a great record on human rights, is now more progressive than my religion which claims to have the formula to bring humanity together and lead us to universal peace.

    One of my former co-workers, who is Christian, not Baha’i, but has the same belief, said proudly on facebook after the supreme court decision, he will stick with God and not the gays no matter how offensive it is to gay people. I worked with him for ten years, attended his father’s funeral, took him to a Vet memorial honoring his brother, assisted him in every way I could. But to him, I am not deserving of the rights he has because his god says so. So he is no friend to me because of his god. With this final nail in the coffin, I think it is time for me to go away from all people who see me this way, which would seem to include most Baha’is. Our progress only distances us more from them.”

  3. Back in April 2015, a poll was done to determine strong/regular support/opposition and no position on the issue of same sex marriage/marriage equality.


    It has me curious about what percentages would come up if a poll had been taken of Baha’is back in April 2015. There is an other religions category, but Baha’is make up a small part of that category as it is mostly Africam Diaspora Religion, Neo Paganism, and other NRMs.

  4. It depends on the political climate of a country. LGBT rights and the stances people take vary from party, but in some countries all people across the political spectrum support LGBT rights. Generally, the religious right is the source of all LGBT rights opposition.


    LGBT conservatism is an example of place where LGBT rights are across the spectrum. It also blurs the line between conservatism and libertarianism. Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Israel, Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States, etc have LGBT rights organizations within their right wing parties.

    Since you said you were in the Netherlands, here is the Netherlands section: “Much of the Dutch right wing (including figures such as Geert Wilders) has evolved to include LGBT rights platforms which do not conflict with the current status quo but also embrace an increased perturbation to supposed threats from minority religions (especially Islam) which, in their view, threaten to upend the vestiges of the liberalism and tolerance which has been associated with the Dutch social climate.” Geert Wilders and the Party for Freedoms does have pro LGBT planks in their platform.

    Generally despite all of the above, the concept of LGBT conservatism is seen as a contradiction, at least in America. Supporting LGBT rights seems to be the province of libertarians and progressives, but not conservatives.

    Religious people and social conservatism combine to form religious right social issues voters who want the govt to follow their moralistic vision of what laws should be. To them, they oppose LGBT right because it oppose their sense of morality and religion.

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