Homosexuality Raises Ethical And Practical Questions - Part I
Posted February 6, 2009
During my touring of Brazil I came across the following administrative situation: an initiated devotee who had graduated from our nine-month Bhakti-Shastri Seminary had been giving classes at the temple, and also teaching a bhakti-shastri course to the other devotees. She had been doing that for some time, to the satisfaction of the leaders and congregation. Then she decided to move in with her girlfriend, and they signed some paperwork between themselves, making it as close to a legal marriage as they could. The other girl also became a devotee by her influence.
So a female-female devotee couple was formed. Because she did not hide the situation, the local leaders became disturbed. They then banned her from giving further classes and canceled her bhakti-shastri course to the local congregation. (At the same time, in this same congregation, a male initiated devotee is living with a bhaktin, and they are not married. He not only teaches the bhakti-shastri course, but also cooks for the congregation.)
The general question I raised when discussing the issue with the local leaders, and for which they could not give me a satisfactory reply, is whether it is fair to ban someone from doing some kind of service on the basis of how they were born. That, it seems to me, would be grossly unfair and exactly like saying that, for example, blacks cannot be pujaris or women cannot distribute books, etc.
So, if it is the case (and I'm not saying it is or not, but that science can probably show this) that certain people are born homosexual and not born with the inclination for lifelong celibacy, then is it fair to ban them from certain kinds of service to Prabhupada and Krishna when they naturally settle into a relationship?
The leadership argued that the homosexual devotees were breaking the illicit sex rule. I said, "how do you know?" I argued that any heterosexual couple could also be breaking the principle. But, just as we do not ask a married devotee what he and his wife have done in bed before allowing him to sit on the Vyasasana, we also cannot ask that of a homosexual couple. In other words, I cannot see how we can be any more sure that a homosexual couple is breaking the principle of illicit sex than a heterosexual couple. How about married heterosexual couples who canīt have children for medical reasons? Should we ban them from giving class too?
It seems to me that if it is the case that homosexuals are born homosexuals (and as far as I am aware, science strongly supports this claim), then ISKCON must deal with this ethical issue urgently, lest we be guilty of the grossest kind of prejudice — that based on the way a person is born, regardless of his possessing all other qualifications.