Thai Buddhists Say “Keep Buddhism Out of Same-Sex Marriage Debate”

Thailand’s The Nation has exclusive interviews with noted LGBT activist Anjana Suvarnananda, as well as Engaged Buddhist icon Sulak Sivaraksa and Buddhist scholar Suraphot Thaweesak, about the same-sex marriage debate and the place of Buddhist thought in the discussion. In The Nation‘s view, all of them seem to suggest that Buddhism should be kept out of the debate all together.

You can read the whole piece here.

What do you think? Do we need a Buddhist opinion (or opinions) on same-sex marriage?

  • Gregory Wonderwheel

    First, there is no such thing as “the Buddhist view” when it comes to social-political issues. Some Thai Buddhists are wrapped in a world-view that seems like simplistic superstition to us in the West. For example, I’ve met Thai Buddhists who have amulets of Buddha images and believe that these will prevent them from being shot just as much as a Kevlar vest would. Is that Buddhism or just superstitious Thai tribalism?

    Next, Buddha Dharma has four assemblies: male and female monastics and male and female laypeople. Marriage is an issue of lay life. The monastic sangha follows the laws of the vinaya, while the lay sangha follows the civil society laws. Therefore, the monastic sangha commenting on lay laws becomes problematic as a category confusion. Where the monastics must abide by civil laws as well, then they can appropriately comment on those laws.

    However, I would say that the Lay Sangha must comment on social laws as part of being a good citizen of their civil society, and they (we) must do so on the basis of our own perspective and realization of the Buddha Dharma. That means, we don’t say that other people should live according to Buddha Dharma or even according to how I see the Buddha Dharma. But we should and must say how the Buddha Dharma informs our views about how people can live together for the benefit and liberation of all beings. That is our civil duty as “good Buddhists.”

    So when it comes to marriage laws, I say that civil society has marriage as a recognition of a unique partnership between two people who choose to live together on the most intimate basis. The Buddha Dharma tells me in the Dhammapada:

    I.5. Hatred is never appeased by hatred in this world. By non-hatred alone is hatred appeased. This is a law eternal.

    I.6. There are those who do not realize that one day we all must die. But those who do realize this settle their quarrels.

    So, I see preventing same-sex couples from having the blessings of civil society for the unique partnership of marriage as a hateful act and the perpetuation of an unnecessary and inhumane quarrel. Because I realize that one day we all must die, I have no quarrel with people who want to have the benefits of marriage even if they are the same sex. Because only non-hatred will deal with the hatred that has been aimed at same-sex couples, I choose to aim non-hatred at this issue instead of aiming hatred.