Keep Buddhism out of same-sex marriage debate, activist advises

by Pravit Rojanaphruk, The Nation July 27, 2013

Bangkok, Thailand -- Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activists should try not to get trapped in a debate with Buddhists on whether Buddhism allows same-sex marriage, to avoid complicating matters, said Anjana Suvarnananda, pioneer LGBT activist and co-founder of Anjana Suvarnananda.

While some members of the House of Representatives are pushing for a draft law for same-sex civil union, Anjana believes Buddhists who may hold an anti-LGBT stance should not be alarmed into complicating the situation.

"No monks have ever spoken through the media to denounce gays or lesbians. This is perhaps because they may see the matter as worldly," Anjana told The Nation. Anjana suggests that Buddhists should be more concerned about the degradation of Buddhism in Thailand in areas such as the growing popularity among Thais of taking a trip to pay respects to nine temples in the hope of accruing good merit - and the lack of loving kindness amongst some self-professed Buddhists.

"Some [of these people] donated money they cheated from others to temples - and yet they get recognition. We should pay more attention to such issues," said Anjana, stressing that Buddhism fundamentally sees human beings as equals, so same-sex marriage should be acceptable to Buddhists. What's more, said Anjana, Thailand is a secular state and religious teaching should not influence laws or infringe on the rights of minorities, such as gays and lesbians.

Prominent social critic and Buddhist scholar Sulak Sivaraksa said according to Buddhist teachings, lay people can have sex and it doesn't matter whether they're same sex or not. "It's normal," he said, adding that Buddhism doesn't see sex as primarily for pro-creation, unlike in Christianity and Islam.

Another Buddhist scholar, Suraphot Thaweesak, said Buddhism only sees extra-marital affairs as wrong, but not same-sex marriage.

He warned, however, that many Buddhists are conservative and may put up a resistance and the only way to reform Thai Theravada Buddhism into becoming more open and liberal is to take the Sangha order away from the control and supervision of the state.