With the legalization of same sex marriages in countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom—as well as India’s decriminalization of homosexual practices—the issue drops down to the various religious communities that have often opposed the idea. The Jathedars (leaders) of the Sikh Community have taken a strong stance against homosexual marriages amongst Sikhs because it is not a concept approved or recognized in the Panthik Rehat Maryada (Code of Conduct) or in the teachings of Sri Guru Granth Sahib.
Several months ago, during an interfaith discussion, a non-Sikh asked, “How do Sikhs feel about gay and lesbian unions?”
The person at the front of the room shifted weight from one foot to another, smiled perhaps a little nervously and then confidently stated that Sikhi teaches equality and nondiscriminatory treatment of all individuals despite their social or sexual orientation. The answer was not incorrect in any way, but I do feel that the original question was evaded this way. I was disturbed, but I didn’t know why.
I think I must have mulled over the situation a thousand times before coming to the realization that the answer given to that question about same sex marriages was defensive in nature. It’s true that Sikhs believe in treating everybody equally. That’s a rule that a Sikh should adhere to when interacting with anybody, anywhere in the world. The Sikh religion is very accepting of difference, we believe in living and letting others live how they choose. However, that does not mean we should adopt and integrate outside beliefs into our faith.
The relationships accepted in Gurmat are that between parents and children, siblings, friends, and husband and wife. The words “dhan” and “pir” are prevalent in Gurbani, meaning husband and wife, respectively. Marriage is clearly defined by Guru Amar Das Ji as follows:
ਧਨ ਪਿਰੁ ਏਹਿ ਨ ਆਖੀਅਨਿ ਬਹਨਿ ਇਕਠੇ ਹੋਇ ॥
ਏਕ ਜੋਤਿ ਦੁਇ ਮੂਰਤੀ ਧਨ ਪਿਰੁ ਕਹੀਐ ਸੋਇ ॥੩॥
They are not said to be husband and wife, who merely sit together.
They alone are called husband and wife, who have one light in two bodies. ||3||
Despite knowing that Bani is not limited to translation and definition, I do believe that Guru Sahib clarifies in these two lines that a marriage is between a man and woman, husband and wife. Guru Sahib further instructs us Sikhs to go beyond the worldly relationship and unite our soul with the one we’re married to.
I think the most wonderful thing about being Sikh is having Gurus who showed us how to live—they lived the way they wanted to see their Sikhs living. Our Gurus were householders, grihstis.If the example of nine gurus isn’t enough, there are countless Gursikhs who dedicated their lives for the Sikh panth. While many of these Gursikhs were married, there were those who chose to remain unmarried. The lives of all these kindred spirits are guides for the modern Sikh. If homosexual relations were permitted or present in the yesteryear Sikh community, I’m sure there would be some mention of it in our various historical accounts or Gurbani itself. It’s very unlikely that incomparable historians of the panth such as Kavi Santokh Singh Ji, Sardar Rattan Singh Ji Bhangu, Bhai Vir Singh Ji, Dr. Ganda Singh Ji, and Principal Satbir Singh Ji would manipulate history for their own beliefs against homosexuality. My point here is that the issue of same sex marriages has never been a panthik issue—exposure to Western culture and our own failures have allowed this matter to seep into Sikhi discussions. In fact, this may be true of any relationship outside of a traditional marriage.
Yes, Sikhs believe in justice for all. This belief would also extend to the human rights of all individuals, regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation, age, religion, lifestyle, or ideology. Human rights however do not equal an entitlement to those same freedoms within the realm of a specific religion. If this were the case, we would be arguing about why the Panj Pyare (Five Beloved Ones) should to be Amritdhari before being permitted to administer Amrit to others; if all human beings are equal, then why can’t someone who drinks, uses drugs, and cuts their hair be a part of the Panj Pyare?
It has been part of our history to not push our beliefs onto others, we live and let live. Then why are we succumbing to the pressures of others’ beliefs? If someone chooses a certain sexual orientation, it is their prerogative to do so. A true Sikh should not judge, hate, or discriminate against that individual at the human level. A true Sikh should extend the same kindness and common courtesy to this person as they would to anybody else—they are still our brothers and sisters. This does not mean that our traditions and Rehat Maryada need to be altered to accommodate individuals’ personal choices.
Sikh ideology was never outdated and has remained ahead of the times for more than five hundred years. Over the course of these centuries, our basic principles have upheld despite changing fashions, politics, and cultures. I request my brothers and sisters to stand up for anybody that is being mistreated, but to also stand by the values of their priceless and timeless faith.
Navdeep Kaur is a Sikh American writer currently obtaining her Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing from San Jose State University. More of her work can be viewed at http://aarsi-reflections.blogspot.com/ or connect with her on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/authorkaur.
I can’t tell whether I am more offended (as a Sikh) by the ignorant comments or this blatantly homophobic article. What a shame!
Homosexuality and its long term impact:
Tolerances are acceptable within the principles. There are more than two side of each and every story; hence heavy weights are the winners. It is total weakness of democracy that 50.001 % can ruin the life of 49.999 % humans. Humans were mistreated in the past, being mistreated now and will be mistreated in the future physically, emotionally, mentally, financially. It is great shame for educated society members to discriminate one type of patient but not others. Mentally disturbed human were chained, detained in hospitals, subject to electric shock etc. but now doctors are caving in knowingly that homosexual relations is very dangerous disease and not declaring but do discuss privately which is overlooked for the past half century. The smoking was dangerous for health but was not recognized for long time until alarming cancer appeared. Our Guru Gobind Singh Ji warned Sikhs 300+ year’s earlier but recent technology doctors were not knowledgeable to stop until caught with loss of alarming human lives.
The same story is being repeated for homosexuals disease; head of states, medical departments and political clowns are lying low and destroying natural phenomenon of (Husband,/Wife), (Father/Mother), (Son/Daughter), (Brother/Sister) and Grandfather/Grandmother). The God fearing, nature believing, family oriented, reproduction love, conscious, self-respect, dignity values of humans are humiliated every second with homosexuality of sick humans as highly educated medical rascals are not able to cure and control. Might is right as Worldwide legal skunk are ready to generate revenue from feature divorces and homosexuality marriages to destroy European and Western countries with millions of new diseases. The religious leaders are partially responsible to create homosexuality, ready to overlook the natural law, not able to protect religion fundamentals and its ethics hence powerless. The confusion will start in our neighborhood as and when kids raise question of “Who is mom, who is dad”, “Who gave birth to baby”, “where is mom”. “Where is dad” such type of questions will be mind boggling for kids but also for parents and teen brother/sisters. Homosexuality will lead to no return after destroying love, relations, societies, communities, religions, laws and human relations. Today’s educated and intellectuals will be known as human animals as per Guru Ji di baani “kartoot Pashoo, Manash Jaat”.
WOW, what a disgrace to Sikhism….. same sex anand karaj’s should be allowed.
So what should a homosexual sikh do? Remain celebate for life (a difficult situation and in opposition to the guru’s instruction for ghristhi jeevan) or maybr leave sikhi? You seem to be saying its wrong to discriminate outside of sikhi, but ok to discriminate within it? You say people “choose” their sexual orientation… when did you choose to be straight? I’m guessing you didn’t. Because the vast majority of studies on the subject shows that sexual orientation is genetic. So what’s a gay sikh to do? Marry someone they’re not attracted to and luve in misery and secrecy as so many have for so long?
BTW, I believe the fallacy regarding the panj would be called a “slippery slope”.
How you learned to eat, talk, sit down, walk and dress up? The same way to be straight and aminmals learn too. Animals are for better than such humans think that sexual orientation is genetic.
You’re all sick puppies get treatment before destroy cultures and commnunities.
My thoughts exactly
Hi, to begin, I wanted to thank you for your article and your personal input to this subject. It seems like you’ve done your research and have a great passion and knowledge of your faith. However, I did want to bring up certain issues that are of interest to me and my personal beliefs regarding the issue of faith and same-sex relationships. Please pardon any ignorance or any disrespect as that is not my intention.
You use Guru Amar Das Ji’s bani to indicate your interpretation that marriage is defined only between a man and a woman. However in the Guru Granth Sahib Ji, hasn’t the imagery of a husband-wife relationship been used to describe the relationship between Waheguru and humans beings respectively? Human beings being described as the wife, or female, regardless of their own gender or sexual orientation? In this way, could man and woman not be interpreted to mean two complements that will guide each other towards a better life to unite with Waheguru as the ultimate goal?
You also talk about a ghrist jeevan. But what makes same-sex couples unable to live a proper household life? If the issue is of having and raising children, then we would also have to discriminate against heterosexual couples that are infertile and biologically incapable of having their own children. Infertile couples as well as same-sex couples should have the opportunity to live a proper household life and adopt to provide love and care to children that may otherwise be abandoned and suffering. To allow a child to be raised in a happy, loving family environment would be the greatest gift anyone could possibly give. As to the matter of a maternal or paternal figure in same-sex marriages, as the saying goes, ‘it takes a village to raise a child’. If a child has 2 fathers, there are aunts or other community members that can provide the role of a strong female character and similarly for a child with 2 mothers. If we disregard this avenue, we would also have to discriminate against single parents that raise children without a male figure or female figure.
In my opinion, Sikhism is a religion that stands for equality for all, regardless of any difference, and by denying the right of certain individuals to find and marry a life partner that not only cares for them but will also help them find peace and the path to the Guru, we are doing a great disservice to our faith.
I love this explanation. I’m raised in a Sikh household but I’m bisexual. All my amritshak friends follow Nanak naam teachings and believe homosexuality has no place in Sikhism. Neither does walking side by side in lavaah. I would love to learn more about this perspective because I’m drifting away from sikhi becuase I don’t feel like I belong. Could you contact me?