My Sikh Sense
Hari Singh Bird Khalsa
"As Ministers we are obliged to practice what we teach using
only occasional words. Our actions teach louder than words."
"Diversity is the quality or state of having people who are of different
races or who have different cultures within a group or organization.
Question is are we mature enough to sit down and discuss issues of
tribalism, including race, religion, and gender? When there's no
dialogue only one side of any issue is resolved." Hari Singh Bird
Sat Nam. Below are messages I received from various authors, which in my opinion, address current controversial subjects requiring sooner rather than later the attention of the Sikh Dharma Ministry office. 3HO/Sikh Dharma needs to be on the right side of humanity and history.
Sat Nam. Questions: Are there any gay or lesbian ministers? What is the position of "American Sikhs" toward marriage equality - should we take our cue from India's anti-women SGPC, Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, or have our own?
The Irish just legalized marriage equality and more than 2/3 of the U.S. support it. Does anyone know what our position (3HO/Sikh Dharma) is, and why?
Sat Nam. We are talking about humans here. Expressions of the Infinite. Love, Life, Prana, Kundalini, etc. don't have to comply with our limited concepts of correct or not.
It actually might not be any different, simply because the genders, gender identities, or gender expressions appear to be different.
Polarities have to do with energy flow between two or more poles... hence the term. One place to another, sky to ground lightning, cloud to cloud lightning. The energy is everywhere and it moves wherever there is a source, a connector, a receptor. We are all of these.
The reference to the female tantric cult... or the all female White Tantric facilitators... what do you imply by that. I've only observed White Tantric Yoga since post Yogi Bhajan, so I have wondered at the use of monitors, the same-sex partners, allowed as long as they take their polar places... The whole place being like a big generator, with interchangeable human parts... Interesting.
Sat Nam. We in the U.S. do not follow the guidelines on many Sikh practices supported by the Akal Takht. We have women actively partaking in areas that only men do in India, We openly talk of astrology and numerology. We use an abbreviated Anand Sahib. We play guitars and sing Song of the Khalsa in every Gurdwara, etc. We are legally a separate entity, so I see no need to accept the Akal Takht"s dictates as law.
The Siri Guru Granth Sahib is not clear regarding gay and lesbian love. There are many references of the lover and the Lord, and "bride" is mentioned often, too. I don't have a specific reference, but Yogi Bhajan accepted a man holding a female role in a relationship (White Tantric Yoga?). So this aspect is open to any interpretation.
On the level of human love there is no difference, but when it comes down to polarity, a man/woman relationship is very different from a man/man or woman/woman relationship.
Sat Nam. When the Siri Guru Granth Sahib speaks of the Beloved, the "Bride", and "Bridegroom", Guru Sahib, is referencing the "Soul", not the physical body. Any ritual or practice which comes from male governing bodies of the Sikh faith or any other, are only "men" interpreting. Personally I trust Siri Singh Sahibji's relationship with Guru and His Sikhs more than anyone. The Soul (the Bride) knows intuitively the common sense response. All the Guru teaches is the Soul longing, not the gender or sexual expression in human form.
These are questions of the Soul, of the heart, not of the mind or ego. When men who profess a particular authority and awareness also drink scotch, other nonsense, then the moral authority is lost. What 'values' will offend many? Treating women as equals, allowing a Granthi to be a woman? Almost every World Faith - Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Sikh Dharma, Hinduism even Buddhism is "Male" dominated. This is the reason we see so much 'homophobic behavior'. How does a predominately Roman Catholic country like Ireland go against Vatican authority and allow for "GAY marriage"?
"The times, they are a-changin'." (See KaliYugaSigns.com.)
All is G-O-D! All is Good! Guru is within, not in Amritsar, or Rome, or Jerusalem, or Mecca, or Dharamasala.
Wahe Guru Ji Ka Khalsa Wahe Guru Ji Ki Fateh!
Sat Nam. It would appear the Siri Singh Sahib never pronounced on this issue aside from the merely legal aspect. No doubt, if he had felt it would serve us and serve the times the Siri Singh Sahib would have made some public proclamation about the legitimacy of same sex-marriage. My sense is that part of his calculation was the need of keeping us together in the larger Sikh fold.
Times change. Sensibilities change. The vote that legitimized same-sex marriage in Ireland the other day might have had a different outcome had it been held five years ago. The attitude of average Sikhs and the religious hierarchy in India will change too, but in time. (See What Does Ireland's Same-Sex Marriage Vote Mean For US?)
The Siri Singh Sahib was many things: brave, diplomatic, and tactically wise. I suggest that without a better understanding of the mentality of the sevadars of the Takhats and the SGPC, individually and collectively, it might be rash and regrettable to take an official stand for gay marriage at this time but that it would be wise to keep the pulse in Amritsar with a view to future action on this issue.
My Sikh Sense
SatHanuman Singh Khalsa
Sat Nam. Of course SGPC will not sanction gay marriage just as the Roman Catholic Church in Rome won't either. Ironically, the first Christian denomination in the U.S. to allow gay marriage is my former "Church" before I adopted Sikh Dharma and gave my head to Siri Guru Granth Sahib. It's the United Church of Christ - the former "Pilgrim" church.
It's is now close to 400 years since these 108 pilgrims landed in Provincetown (Mass) on 11/11/1620. They called themselves Separatists or Congregationalists! That body was the 'Taliban' of American Protestant Christianity for 200 years. These are the religious zealots who burned women (calling them witches), branded women with the Scarlett Letter "A", hung one woman who had the courage to proclaim she was a Quaker! These male dominated fundamentalists evolved until the mid-1800's when they led the anti-slavery movement, and 100 years later, the civil rights movement.
Today, at 395-years old, the Congregational Church, predominately located in New England, the Midwest and the Pacific Northwest, where missionaries relocated, marries gay couples.
The human Soul will always triumph over the spiritual ego, fanaticism and religious insecurity and fear. Even the founder of the U.S. military's close order drill and military discipline was a gay general, Major General Baron Friedrich von Steuben, recommended by a wise but old eccentric sage named Benjamin Franklin, who was hired by the then Commander and Chief - General George Washington.
I applaud this conversation and discussion, and feel it should be taken by ACT to another level.
Sat Nam. When New Mexico legalized same-sex marriages, I asked SS Dr. Sat Kaur Khalsa, in her capacity as Secretary of Religion, if Sikh Ministers could perform same-sex marriage ceremonies. She replied in the affirmative, but added that the SGPC and the Jathadar of Akal Takht had clearly prohibited using a Gurdwara for any same-sex weddings. She said that at one time while he was still alive, she had asked the Siri Singh Sahibji about Sikh Ministers performing marriage ceremonies for non-Sikhs, and his reply (paraphrased) was that Sikh Ministers could perform marriage ceremonies for anybody.
Also, SS Siri Bandhu Kaur of Ottawa has been performing marriage ceremonies for couples of any background in Canada for a very long time. She also said that the Siri Singh Sahib ji had approved of her doing that. In Canada, I believe, a person cannot perform a marriage ceremony unless he/she will perform it for anybody. OttawaWeddingsYourWay.com is her Web site.
My Sikh Sense
Siri Bandhu Kaur Khalsa
Sat Nam. In the new millennium the Siri Singh Sahib called me to conference. The Ontario Law (see below) sanctioning Gay Marriage had been passed. He stated that Sikh Dharma wouldn't legally support us with legal issues arising from a minister having sanctioned a gay marriage. I understood this to be in reference to larger organizations such as government or religions or groups. This was presented as a legal issue. Nothing was stated about religion, social, or any other perspective on this issue.
When I returned home I spoke to Harimandir and told him what the Siri Singh Sahib said. Harimandir quietly replied, "These people are our friends." At this time we had already performed several same-sex marriages. One couple had already been together 28 years before being allowed to be married.
There has been no doubt in my heart and mind that the same-sexweddings we have officiated are soul marriages as are the traditional male-female marriages.
Relationship communication problems arise when daily life begins. There are drugs, alcohol, habits, sex, money, work, disease, accidents, outside influences, just plain circumstances that can break an intimate relationship.
Khalsa Council published a book for Sikh youth on life lessons at the "request" of the Siri Singh Sahib. I still give my article, "Secrets for Choosing the Right Partner," to all couples interviewing for with us for a marriage. When asked, "What if the couple is gay?" I replied, "The rules are the rules. They are relevevant when choosing a partner, friend, or pet."
We have married all kinds of mixes. One time we married a Muslim and a Christian in front of a Christmas tree and they included parts of both faiths. Two men had a small gathering in their home for their marriage. One man had Muscular Distrophy and his partner served him so beautifully it still makes me emotional to have seen this interaction. There have been Canadians and non-Canadians, mixed races, mixed faiths, mixed physical abilities and even a few couples in their 80s!
Marriage is a sacred business and very personal. We respect the sacredness of every relationship by addressing the couples' requests. Your partner can't speak in public? Here's your work-around. You have children, babies? We could include them in the ceremony according to the their age and ability. You want an outdoor wedding? There are some venues we have found to be scenic and private. We will come to you.
One couple had me marry them, years later I presided naming ceremonies for each of their children, and even signed papers in a name-change ceremony for the husband at a later date. I am humbled and honoured to have officiated life milestones of this loving family. This is growth and progress supported by a loving extended family and community inspired by this inclusive couple.
Sometimes spontanious reunions happen at social events. We see parents who were the age of their children when we married them. They take as much joy in reviewing their life milestones as we take delight in hearing their successes.
We see both success and loss... In both cases we offer support and compassion.
Marrying people is one of the finest things we do in our lives. There are many wonderful stories from a hot air balloon wedding and a last minute venue change due to an oil tanker spill! This is a journey from our hearts to their hearts and relationship that could require quick adaptability.
I am Divinely Blessed to have this destiny to entwine my blessings of love to the love of a couple who are committing their hearts, body, minds, and souls to supporting each other's destiny while living on planet Earth.
The Siri Singh Sahib told me clearly Sikh Dharma wouldn't support us legally in any gay marriage we conducted. This was when Main article: See Same-sex marriage in Ontario.
In 2003, the couples in Halpern v. Canada appealed the decision, requesting that the decision take effect immediately instead of after a delay. On June 10, 2003, the Court of Appeal for Ontario confirmed that current Canadian law on marriage violated the equality provisions in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in being restricted to heterosexual couples.
The court did not allow the Province any grace time to bring its laws in line with the ruling, making Ontario the first jurisdiction in North America to recognize same-sex marriage. The first same-sex couple married after the decision were Michael Leshner and Michael Stark. Consequently, the City of Toronto announced that the City Clerk would begin issuing marriage licences to same-sex couples. The next day, the Ontario attorney general announced that his government would comply with the ruling.
The court also ruled that two couples who had previously had a wedding ceremony in the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto using an ancient common-law procedure called the Reading of the Banns would be considered legally married.
On September 13, 2004, the Ontario Court of Appeal declared the Divorce Act also unconstitutional for excluding same-sex marriages. It ordered same-sex marriages read into that act, permitting the plaintiffs, a lesbian couple, to divorce. --
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Sat Nam. Thanks to all those who have contributed comments on this important issue!
Wahe Guru Ji Ka Khalsa Wahe Guru Ji Ki Fateh!
MSS Hari Singh Bird Khalsa --