In a recent (2004) essay “Vaisnava Dharma is very liberal“, Amara prabhu raises the following question:
Gay marriage is . . . taken to be outside of the rigid varnasrama system and the ordinary prescription for married life, but suppose it is found to be the best practical arrangement to sustain a person’s bhakti, someone who is exclusively homosexual and unable to follow complete celibacy. Can an exception be made to the general rule in the spirit of encouraging bhakti, as cited above, or should we give more importance to the rigid codes of ordinary dharma?
I agree with Amara that a truly spiritual society must constantly seek a balance between the strict codes of varnasrama, and the practical spiritual needs of sincere devotees. There can be no doubt that a significant number of souls, whose external sexual orientation is homosexual, sincerely strive to be Krishna conscious. It is entirely natural and predictable that a majority of these devotees, as with most hetereosexual devotees, will not be suited for lifelong celibacy.
My view of this issue is as follows:
- As a general rule, we should appreciate devotees in terms of the sincerity and diligence of their spiritual attempts, given the psycho-physical circumstances of their life. In other words, in any condition of life, if a devotee sincerely strives to please Krishna, that devotee is to be admired.
- It is the duty of any society to recognize, and thus encourage, the admirable behavior of its members. Monogamy, among devotees of any orientation, is an admirable achievement in the context of today’s promiscuous society, and should be thus appreciated and encouraged.
- Given the need to balance strict varnasrama with liberal spirituality, I believe that ISKCON should recognize and encourage monogamy among all its members of whatever orientation, and that such recognition and encouragement should take appropriate forms that achieve both purposes: the maintenance of varnasrama and the encouraging of spiritual sincerity.
- I am not convinced that marriage is the best means in all cases, but some serious, formal and public recognition and appreciation of gay monogamy is, in my view, in the best interest of ISKCON and its members.