ISKCON’s Gay Marriage Controversy is something like a movie franchise. It keeps coming back, and it gets promoted with great fanfare. Part I debuted in 2009, and the initial announcement of this year’s ISKCON gay marriage made sure to mention that and the brouhaha that surrounded it. The present debut of Part II launched with more fanfare–a writeup in the regional Brazilian online news site Razões Para Acreditar and glowing support from ISKCON leaders and priests in Brazil. The people at GALVA (Gay and Lesbian Vaisnava Association) are understandably excited about it (but to be fair, they get excited about a lot of things they shouldn’t be getting excited about).
What is different about Part II from Part I is that while Part I was done surreptitiously with little thought given beforehand as to how the larger body of ISKCON’s members might react, the actors in Part II seem to have had the public-relations angle already worked out. The responses from some Brazilian ISKCON officials have been surprisingly swift, as if they already knew ahead of time what they were going to say. They were locked and loaded for homophobic bear.
Overall, their responses so far have been disingenuous. Rama Putra Das writes that “the gay marriage as being an official act of ISKCON is fake news.” Why? Because “the ceremony happened in private space which does not belong to ISKCON.” Got that? If it happens outside of a temple property, then it’s somehow OK. So devotees can grill meat there and eat it so long as it’s not on an officially owned ISKCON property, right? But the problem is that gay marriage itself, like eating meat, is sinful, and it’s a pretty good bet that Rama Putra Das knows that this is what we think about it.
The next one is by Lokasaksi Das (ACBSP), who writes, “Bhakti House is not a ISKCON temple or even a ISKCON project. . . . This does not mean that we agree with other speakers and activities that was done there.” This is similar to the previous one, but the new twist here is that ISKCON officials don’t have any authority to do or say anything about devotees who do things they are not supposed to do when they do them outside of an official temple property. Really? If some ISKCON pujari ate meat at the Bhakti House and Lokasaksi Prabhu came to know about it, would he let him worship Deities at the temple? Of course not. He wouldn’t just say nothing and forget about the matter. The condemnation would be swift, and the action would be stern. But somehow, it’s different when it comes to illicit sex. How come?
By their responses, one can almost see them hopping up and down and chanting “Location, Location, Location,” like some sort of magical incantation intoned to dispel the criticism they are facing. Perhaps wearing Harry Potter robes and brandishing magic wands might give their spell a better chance of working. (And that would be sooo Krishna-West if they did that.) But it’s not about the location. It never was, and they know it.
So, what is it really about? It’s about what constitutes illicit sex. We use Srila Prabhupada’s definition of it, and they use some other definition. That’s what it comes down to. And they don’t want to talk about that.