A Hindu Response to Gay Rights

Exploring the current fight for equality in light of the ancient beliefs of Hinduism

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I was personally very impressed and moved by President Obama's decision to come out openly and vocally in support of same-sex marriage. For all the guff we throw at him, and not withstanding the obvious political calculations that came along with the decision, his move was a courageous and truly historic gesture befitting the expectations that came along with his ascendancy to the presidency.

The cultural waters in terms of gay rights continue to move and shift in profound and irreversible ways. I see this as well in the religious communities that I am part of. Recently, my friend Bowie Snodgrass, who is one of the executive directors of the excellent Interfaith community Faith House here in Manhattan, presented a sampling of the liturgy, song, and scripture she and others in the Episcopal Church have been developing for a same-gender blessings marriage ceremony. (For more information, click here to visit the Episcopal Church's "Same-Gender Blessings Project")

Still, within my own tradition (the Gaudiya Vaisnava tradition of Hinduism), and within its contemporary cultural expressions, I feel a certain hesitancy to be so supportive of gay rights. Within my own heart and conviction, there is no conflict. But I wonder how I will be perceived by my immediate and extended religious community. Nevertheless, I use this platform on Beliefnet to bring this conflict into a brighter light, because I think it is part of the larger question of establishing and defining the relevancy of my tradition in the world today.

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It is an unfortunate aspect of my experience within the Vaisnava tradition that I have experienced prejudice towards the gay community. Some of this prejudice has been overt, some of it simply a matter of cultural conditioning and unfamiliarity, but in either case, it has always made me quite uncomfortable. I had many gay and lesbian friends when I was an undergrad at the University of Michigan. I imagine I will have many gay and lesbian friends when I began grad school at Union Theological Seminary in the fall. I am naturally comfortable with people of this sexual persuasion, because of the simple fact that, beyond sexual preference, I see no difference between them and me. Therefore when I encounter prejudice against gay people and gay culture, even if it is not with the intent of malice, it feels abhorrent in the fiber of my being and spirituality.

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