On the same week as the anniversary of the Stonewall riots of 1969 which helped start the Gay rights movement in America; saw the marriage of an American lesbian couple in Nepal in a Hindu ceremony making it the first recorded same sex marriage in Asia and Hinduism.
Sarah Welton (48) and Courtney Mitchell (41), a lawyer and a psychology professor respectfully from Colorado married Monday 20th June in a Kathmandu Temple in accordance with Hindu tradition. The marriage attracted local gay rights groups, the international press such as CNN, Reuters, BBC, Skynews and AP and many local to wish good wishes for the happy couple.
Courtney Mitchell who was in the Peace Corp in Nepal and was also a UN employee from 1998 – 2003 was quoted: “I have always loved Nepal and wanted to bring Sarah here. I also wanted to be part of the success of the movement in Nepal for sexual minorities.”
In 2007, the Nepalese Supreme Court overrules old British colonial laws discriminating against Homosexuality and recognized people of the Third gender. It also directed the government to explore the possibility of same-sex marriage paving the way for the marriage of Sarah and Courtney this week.
“We decide to do it in the Hindu tradition because there are instances of Hindu Gods of the same sex marrying” said Mitchell. “It is an inclusive ceremony where the Gods are honoured”, she added.
They maintained the full colour and regalia of a Hindu marriage. Local Hindu priests were only happy to conduct the marriage and had the full support of the community. To where Sarah said to the press; “It was a dream wedding come true. This is a fabulous ceremony.”
The couple only met five years ago at a birthday party and have an adopted 9 month old girl which they cherish deeply whom was at the marriage as well.
To expand further, in Hinduism there is a belief of the third gender. This is a category outside male and female, it is one which includes a wide range of people with mixed male and female natures such as transgender, homosexuals, transsexuals, bisexuals and so on. Such persons are not considered fully male or female in Hindu tradition but being combinations of both. They are mentioned as third sex by nature and are not expected to behave like ordinary men and women. They often keep their own societies or quarters, perform specific occupations (such as masseurs, hairdressers, flower-seller, domestic servants, etc.) and are generally attributed with a semi-divine status.
Also their participation in religious ceremonies, especially as cross-dressing dancers and devotees of certain temple gods/goddesses is considered as auspicious. Some of their Gods are part of the third gender and Hindu texts describe same sex marriages between the Gods and Goddesses. Some Hindus believe that third people have special powers allowing them to bless or curse others.
The same progress has been happening in India where the vast majority of Hindus live. The Indian Supreme Court has made the same ruling in 2008 in regard to the British Colonial Laws against Homosexuality but since their independence from the British Empire most Indian turned a blind eye to the laws due to their belief in the third gender and their profound respect for their follow man. However with their progress in recent years fundamentalist Hindu groups have popped up against the legal recognition of the third gender but their numbers are very small.
For more information of LGBT rights in Hinduism just click in the following link (More Info). For me the picture which sums up this profound event is this: