Open Letter to The Rt Hon David Cameron, MP, Prime Minister and Lord Singh of Wimbledon
Dear Mr Cameron,
Earlier this week, Lord Singh of Wimbledon made a number of comments in respect of same-sex marriages on the Today Programme on Radio 4. Lord Singh described the the consultation for same-sex marriages as being a “sideways assault on religion”, and he described that as being the view held by Sikhs generally. He also described the call for same-sex marriages as being an attempt by “a vocal secular minority to attack religion”.
We at Sarbat do not agree with those comments. Sarbat is the only social and support group for LGBT Sikhs in the UK, and we are also the one-stop resource for LGBT Sikhs around the world via our website www.sarbat.net. We are first and foremost Sikh and our sexuality is secondary to our Sikh identity, just as the sexuality of heterosexual Sikhs is secondary to their Sikh identity. Some of us are baptised Sikhs within the Khalsa tradition, whilst others are sehajdhari Sikhs, i.e. those Sikhs who have decided not to keep long hair. In other words, our membership is totally representative of the Sikh faith. The only things that set us apart from our heterosexual Sikh brothers and sister is our sexuality. We hold our beliefs truly and sincerely, and we do not see any reason why being gay should be a barrier to being Sikh or to being allowed to marry.
Sarbat was founded in 2007 as a means of promoting the rights of LGBT Sikhs in Britain and globally. We have published a leaflet about the compatibility of same-sex marriages within a Sikh context (http://sarbat.net/sikhism_and_same_sex_relationships.pdf), and we are fully supportive of the proposal for introducing same-sex marriages in England and Wales. We are also a pragmatic organisation. We are not asking for Parliament to force same-sex marriages to be sanctified in Sikh places of worship (Gurdwaras) as that would be a matter for the Sikh faith itself. What we are asking for is true equality in recognising our right to marriage.
The name ‘Sarbat’ is taken from the final couplet in the Ardas or the Sikh congregational prayer of supplication, where Sikhs pray for the happiness and goodwill of the whole of mankind. LGBT Sikhs form part of that mankind for whom prayers are given on a daily basis, and we do not consider ourself to be distinct from the Sikh faith solely because of our sexuality.
Sarbat trusts and believes that the Government and Parliament as a whole will pay heed to our views on this controversial topic and will take on board that the Sikh faith is not how Lord Singh has sought to portray it in his comments on Radio 4.
Lord Singh went on to say that he would be willing to bless “any other sort of relationship” as long as it is not a same-sex marriage. In that case, we call on Lord Singh to attend a civil partnership and give a Sikh blessing to it afterwards. We also call upon Lord Singh to tell us what the ‘Sikh’ blessing equivalent for a civil partnership would take, and we very much look forward to seeing Lord Singh march at World Pride on 7th July 2012 alongside our gay men and women members under the Sarbat banner.