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Same-Sex Unions and Sikhism

Devinder Singh Chahal, Ph.D., retired as professor of applied microbiology from the Institut Armand-Frappier at the Université de Quebec, Laval, Quebec, Canada. He is editor of Understanding Sikhism and an advisor-at-large to The Sikh Times. He can be reached at

The Sikh Times, Feb. 20, 2005

Photo: Devinder Singh Chahal

A recent edict against same-sex marriage, issued from the Akal Takht in a hurry, has generated some tension. Unfortunately, Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin had to cancel his visit to the Darbar Sahib (Golden Temple, Amritsar) to avoid further unpleasantness.

An earlier edict from the Akal Takht, banning the use of tables and chairs at langars (community meals) had sharply divided the Sikhs of British Columbia, Canada. Each faction now spends hundreds of thousands of dollars during elections to win the control of B.C. gurdwaras. Money wasted in this manner would go a long way toward preaching Sikhism in its real perspective.

The edict against same-sex marriage received wide coverage in the Canadian press. The Montreal Gazette reported (January 19, 2005): 'The prime minister, who favours legalization of same-sex marriage, was caught off guard when the Sikhs' supreme religious leader, Joginder Singh Vedanti, issued an edict condemning same-sex marriage as 'an idea that originated from sick minds.' ' However, Dr. Manmohan Singh, P.M. of India and a devout Sikh, issued a very sober statement, 'I don't think it is proper for me to comment on internal Canadian affairs, but certainly . . . such a thing, in our country, I would think would not have a wide appreciation.' The Toronto Star wrote (January 19, 2005), 'Prime Minister Paul Martin vigorously countered an influential religious edict from the highest Sikh clerical authority urging all Sikhs to resist the legalization of same-sex marriage . . .'

According to Nanakian Philosophy, as expressed in the following verses by Guru Nanak, the union of two human beings of the opposite sex (i.e. a man and a woman) is necessary to produce a baby:

Through the union of mother and father are given the egg (blood) and semen (containing sperms); (the union of sperm with egg) forms the body (fetus in the uterus)

In the uterus (womb) the fetus develops with head down in tranquility where God arranges every type of food (for the developing baby through the umbilical cord)

-- Aad Guru Granth Sahib, p. 1013

From the mother's egg (blood) and the flow of semen (containing sperms) of the father

The Infinite God has created a beautiful body (baby)

Energy (life) and all types of food have been provided (through the umbilical cord) by You, the Creator, who pervades everywhere

-- Aad Guru Granth Sahib, p. 1022

Biologically, a union of opposite sexes is necessary to procreate. Homosexuals cannot produce progeny. In lower animals, plants, and microorganisms there are alternate methods for producing progeny but in human beings the union (marriage) of opposite sexes (a man and a woman) is necessary.

As I have discussed in the January 2005 issue of Understanding Sikhism, the D.N.A. (soul) of the parent is passed on to the children. In fact, the children are the next juuns (the so-called next life) of the parents. Their future depends upon the nature of parents' D.N.A. and nurture provided by the environment (by God) and parents.

Marriage is a serious relationship and should not be taken lightly. Natural biological laws created by God, according to Nanakian Philosophy, cannot be modified. The so-called modern society seems unable to view marriage in its real perspective. The implications of misinterpreting marriage are already taking their toll and resulting in a generation of the disturbed marriages.

The definition of marriage, according to the Canadian Constitution, agrees with mine, i.e. a biological definition.

The debates of Confederation clearly indicate that marriage was understood to be the union of one man and one woman when it was included in the Constitution Act, 1867. The inclusion of marriage in Sections 91 and 92 of the B.N.A. Act did not create the legal relationship of marriage. Nor did it give governments the power to define marriage. Instead it simply recognized, in the law, the pre-existing relationship of marriage - the union of one man and one woman.

More recently, the framers of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms understood marriage to be a union of one man and one woman when the Constitution Act, 1982 was adopted by Parliament and 9 out of 10 provincial legislatures. Therefore, the definition of marriage is deeply embedded in our country's Constitution.

The only possible way to change the definition of marriage from a monogamous, heterosexual relationship would be a constitutional amendment. This view was affirmed by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Ian Pitfield.


In the M. v. H. case - dealing with same-sex rights - in writing for the majority, Supreme Court Justice Iacobucci clearly stated that the issue at hand was not a 'Challenge to traditional conceptions of marriage.' The Supreme Court made a further, strong statement about the definition of marriage in the Egan v. Canada case. Justice LaForest wrote for the majority:

. . . marriage has from time immemorial been firmly grounded in our legal tradition, one that is itself a reflection of long-standing philosophical and religious traditions. But its ultimate raison d'ĂȘtre transcends all of these and is firmly anchored in the biological and social realities that heterosexual couples have the unique ability to procreate, that most children are the product of these relationships, and that they are generally cared for and nurtured by those who live in that relationship. In this sense, marriage is by nature heterosexual. It would be possible to legally define marriage to include homosexual couples, but this would not change the biological and social realities that underlie the traditional marriage.

The Government of Canada is committed to human rights and the rights of minorities. She has protected many rights of the Sikhs, other religious minorities and Christians. It is not justified that the Sikh clergy should start issuing edicts to influence Canadian Sikhs and Canadian Sikh M.P.s against the policy of the Government of Canada to protect human rights. Since the Government of Canada has protected the religious rights of the Sikhs let it also protect the rights of other groups.

Understandably, same-sex couples wish to have the economic and other advantages available to married couples. However, they cannot naturally produce progeny or juun (next life). Cloning is one alternative available to them. However, a male can get only male clone and a female can get only a female clone, not vice versa. Therefore, according the laws of nature such union between same sexes cannot be declared as equivalent to marriage.

It is wise to follow the Laws of Nature as advised by Nanakian Philosophy. The Canadian Constitution's take on marriage is based precisely on the Laws of Nature, i.e. Nanakian Philosophy.

I suggest that same-sex unions should be allowed to receive benefits equivalent to that of married couples but that such unions should not be termed marriage under Canadian law. Such unions should be named differently.

Further, I suggest that the Sikh clergy should not solemnize same-sex unions as marriage since it is against the Laws of Nature (against the Laws of God). However, homosexuals can always go to civil courts to have their unions formalized under the law in order to obtain the benefits similar to those available to married couples.

Finally, I suggest that the Akal Takht issues a statement keeping in view the above facts of Nanakian Philosophy to ease the tensions its edict has generated.

The topic is under discussion in Sikh Internet forums and media. The most important point being missed in these discussions is that same-sex unions should not be declared equivalent to marriage under the Canadian law. A new term should be coined for such unions.

In the Canadian press, Conservative leader Stephen Harper said the traditional definition of marriage should be enshrined in law or Canada could be faced with more radical demands, such as legalizing polygamy (Montreal Gazette, January 21, 2005). Sayd Mumtaz Ali, president of the Canadian Society of Muslims, said he opposes same-sex marriage but if it were legalized in Canada polygamists would also be within their rights to challenge for their choice of family life to be legalized (Montreal Gazette, January 20, 2005). While some suggest that a push to legalize polygamy may lurk on the fringes of the same-sex marriage issue, Justice Minister Irwin Cotler says there is no link between the two. 'We don't see any connection, I repeat, any connection between the issue of polygamy and the issue of same sex marriage,' he was quoted as having said recently. 'Any attempt to make that kind of connection is simply a way of confusing distinguishable issues in every regard.'