Considerations of Gay Marriage
Posted October 16, 2004
Jyotirmaya Prabhu has suggested that the debate on the morality of gay marriage should be terminated as it is a case of the individual doing what they think is most beneficial for them as opposed to trying to get the approval of others. This gives rise to further considerations:
Is Krsna conscious debate based on trying to get approval from others, or trying to ascertain the most sastrically accurate persuasion, or the most beneficial course of action in terms of sastra? In either case, the discussion on gay marriage should continue. If neither is the case, then I request Jyotirmaya to supply a third reason for Krsna conscious debate.
The next consideration. Is it possible that something may be morally beneficial for one person's particular psycho-physical conditioning, while at the same time that same thing is detrimental to another's? If so, then is there any absolute standard of moral principle?
In regard to the first question, consider a person who is addicted to meat. He cannot give it up, though he is convinced it is wrong to continue. The sastra then restricts him- not the meat of the mother, and then only under strict regulation. But for a person not addicted to meat, following this regulation would be most detrimental.
Now consider a person addicted to sex- which is most of us to a greater or lesser degree. Sastra again gives a limitation- do so within a marriage. Limit it, and regulate it, and ideally use it for the service of the Lord by producing and training offspring in bhakti. Then that very activity that was entangling is purifying. But if one is actually not attracted, then it is detrimental. Better to stay brahmacari/ni.
Now we have the situation of gay marriage. Again, there is addiction to sex, but not to the opposite sex. What are these people supposed to do- repress their desires, or limit and regulate them and if possible use them in the service of the Lord? Clearly, the latter is our philosophy. Still the question arises: Can a gay marriage be used in the service of the Lord?
The use of marriage in the service of the Lord is not restricted to production of devotee children. By regulating the senses, one is in a better position to render devotional service to the Lord; one is peaceful. This is explained by Srila Prabhupada in his purports to the fight between Gajendra and the crocodile. It all depends on one's motivation. A devotee may be bound by his psychophysical tendencies to act in a certain way, but within his limitations, he renders service to the Lord. He does not allow his psychophysical tendencies to go unchecked; he restricts them by use of his intelligence and does not waste his valuable energy repressing them or justifying their existence in service to his ego. He recognizes them for what they are, and prosecutes his devotional service anyway. Marriage is a means for restricting the activities of sex. Why should it be limited to heterosexual couples?
I asked if there is an absolute principle of morality. That principle is to render devotional service to the Lord and is realized by cultivation of the vaisnava qualities; it therefore must balance honesty, compassion, control of the senses and so forth. One must be honest about one's addictions within the modes of nature, and at the same time cultivate love for the Lord and His devotees. I believe therefore, that a marriage which is based on helping one's spouse in various ways such as by deepening his/her Krsna conscious realizations through study and discussion and providing an environment of emotional stability, is beneficial, whether or not it normal. One should learn to see one's spouse as a servant of the Lord, then one is less inclined to exploit him/her for sexual pleasure. This is true, whether the marriage is gay or not. To the extent that marriage or anything else is used for one's own gratification, it is maya, and to the extent that it is based on Krsna's pleasure, it is purifying.
It may be argued that heterosexual sex is purifying because one realizes its entangling nature when it results in the burden of children. It is possible, though, even probable, that one realizes this, yet is still addicted to sex. Don't we see this all the time? The reason is that this sexual attraction, by its very nature, does not respond to reason. Only by the development of a superior taste can one give it up.
The existence of gays is problematic for us however, as if we are to
sanction gay marriage then it may have undesirable ramifications such as
sending a message to the larger society that unrestricted sex is a
religious act. People may see it in that way. They need to be educated that
marriage is not a sexual license but a sexual restriction with concomitant
responsibilities to care for, in every way, the other person. That is why
it is sanctioned by God. Not every marriage, either gay or heterosexual, is thus
under God's sanction. It is up to the individual to make it so.