On the Treatment of LGBTQ Bahá’ís
On the matter of the Universal House of Justice, exalted is their cause, revoking voting rights and membership status from same-sex marital couples, I personally believe that regardless of the Faith's stance on homosexuality, this practice is unjust on the basis that it is discriminatory, perpetuating additional acts of oppression against an already highly oppressed and marginalized community. Revoking membership from friends for the alleged sin of assumed homosexual intercourse disproportionately excludes LGBTQ individuals from having full rights and ability to participate in the Faith. Such discrimination is, in my opinion, against the unifying nature of the Faith, as my above research findings strongly seem to support.
Revoking membership from friends who enter into legal unions such as marriage with persons of the same sex has also only ever had the consequence of driving these and other LGBTQ individuals out of the Faith, causing them to lose their faith and turn away from God. "Know thou of a truth: He that biddeth men be just and himself committeth iniquity is not of Me, even though he bear My name." (Hidden Words, Part One, From the Arabic, #28). Any person considered to be so severe a sinner that they should deserve the House of Justice's individual attention should instead be guided all the more fervently toward God, the All-Forgiving, the Most Beloved. Such results clearly suggest a need for improvement on the matter of how punishment is issued and when it should be pursued at all. If I, as a college professional, in my disciplining of an unruly student, cause the student to believe they are simply unfit for college, and the student drops out, never attaining higher education and spending their life wasting their potential on menial work, it is not the student who has failed; the student did not know any better and the discipline clearly did not achieve a desirable result. It would be me who has failed, for as the improvement specialist Arthur Jones once said to W. Edwards Deming, "Every system is designed to achieve perfectly only the results it gets." Causing strife and division among our own Faith community, and the intersecting communities (gender, sexuality, race, ability, size, immigrant status, etc) within our community, and committing acts that are discriminatory by nature because they disproportionately impact a single community intersection, should never be the desired or actual results of the justice pursued in the name of the Bahá’í Faith.
"It behooveth every ruler to weigh his own being every day in the balance of equity and justice and then to judge between men and counsel them to do that which would direct their steps unto the path of wisdom and understanding. This is the cornerstone of statesmanship and the essence thereof. From these words every enlightened man of wisdom will readily perceive that which will foster such aims as the welfare, security and protection of mankind and the safety of human lives. Were men of insight to quaff their fill from the ocean of inner meanings which lie enshrined in these words and become acquainted therewith, they would bear witness to the sublimity and the excellence of this utterance." (Lawḥ-i-Maqṣúd)
Even if, at the conclusion of my research, it turns out that homosexuality and/or its sexual expression between married partners is indeed considered unacceptable by God, the All-Loving, the Most Merciful, I would strongly suggest that there is no basis for excluding people from active membership and full rights in the Faith on the basis of this, and only this, particular (hypothetical) sin. Keep in mind, also, that not all gay male couples engage in penetrative intercourse, just as not all lesbian couples perform penetrative intercourse of any kind. An even more important truth to consider is that even the most devout Bahá’ís I have ever known, whom have devoted decades of their lives to the service of the Cause (serving on assemblies, for instance) have committed numerous sins throughout their lives and are knowingly committing more every single day (back-biting, sexual expression outside of marriage, conceiving children outside of marriage, alcohol and opiate-dependence, shaving the head, wearing hair past the ears, concerning themselves with the faults and sins of others, lying, lying by omission, not paying Ḥuqúqu'lláh, being the cause of violence or strife, adultery, choosing idleness in poverty or wealthy over employment or other participation in society, and so on). Of all the sins, that the devoted, life-long love of between two human beings could be considered in need of such severe discriminatory treatment is, in my own opinion, far from what the Prophet ever intended, Blessed is His Name. I have also yet to find a passage where Bahá’u’lláh has said the committing of any particular sin should automatically and instantly cause the person to be worthy of discriminatory treatment or expulsion from the Faith. Perhaps the matter should reside strictly between the individual themself and God, as Bahá’u’lláh quoted in section 42 of the Seven Valleys, "If God should chastise men for their perverse doings, He would not leave upon the earth a moving thing! But to an appointed time doth He respite them.” (Qur'an 16:61). If the committing of any single sin is worthy of immediate expulsion from the Faith, then who among us could possibly be left to claim that they are, in truth, a Bahá’í? "The gates that open on the Placeless stand wide and the habitation of the loved one is adorned with the lovers’ blood, yet all but a few remain bereft of this celestial city, and even of these few, none but the smallest handful hath been found with a pure heart and sanctified spirit." (Hidden Words, Part Two, From the Persian, #17). We are all imperfect. We are all sinners. But we deserve the chance to be better, to spend our lives improving ourselves and growing closer to God, and no one should be exempt from that.
"In these days the tabernacle of justice hath fallen into the clutches of tyranny and oppression. Beseech ye the One true God—exalted be His glory—not to deprive mankind of the ocean of true understanding, for were men but to take heed they would readily appreciate that whatever hath streamed from and is set down by the Pen of Glory is even as the sun for the whole world and that therein lie the welfare, security and true interests of all men; otherwise the earth will be tormented by a fresh calamity every day and unprecedented commotions will break out." (Lawḥ-i-Maqṣúd)