Sikh leader: My religion says I can scoff food at a party – but not attend a religious gay wedding

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

The founder and principal adviser of Sikhs in England says he would be happy to attend the reception of a same-sex couple’s wedding – but not the actual wedding ceremony in a temple.

Harmander Singh made the comments on a BBC Asian Network discussion entitled “Would you go to a gay wedding?”

He told presenter Nihal last Friday: “Well presumably the people who are inviting me are friends of mine because you don’t get these spam invites do you?

“So they would understand that if I was going to be true to my religion, I would be perfectly happy to attend the reception, but not the actual religious ceremony because that would be going against my religion.”

Nihal replied: “So you would go to the party where the food is?”

Mr Singh interrupted to say: “Well absolutely who doesn’t want food yeah,” before adding: “They would understand that it would be putting me in a difficult situation, choosing between my religion and them – and my religion frankly is more important to me.”

Nihal asked: “So you would decline the offer to attend the marriage ceremony?”

Mr Singh replied: “And I think any good friends of mine who are gay – and I do have some friends who may not have come out but we are friends nonetheless – they would understand that I would not be attending their wedding, the religious aspect, as they would also know that I would be perhaps unhappy”.

Along with the Anglican and Catholic churches, Sikh organisations have refused to sanction same-sex marriage ceremonies for worshipers as part of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act for England and Wales.

A Sikh peer last year called for a referendum on same-sex marriage.

Asked if he would be willing to attend a civil marriage ceremony for two Sikh same-sex couples, Mr Singh said: “The politicians have chosen to rewrite English and have new meanings for old words and they are changing thousands of old laws which go back centuries just to accommodate the whims of a few”.

Pressed on whether he would attend a civil same-sex marriage ceremony, Mr Singh said: “Yeah, because to me it’s just another party.”

Nihal said: “So the issue is [same-sex marriage] being in a religious building and specifically the religious building that you find most scared.”

Mr Singh replied “No I would say I’m not fan of them. It’s the religious ceremony which is being hijacked by people who have no appreciation of respect for it.”

Nihal asked Mr Singh: “So they couldn’t be a Sikh gay wedding ceremony?” He replied: “Not according to the Sikh aspect, the politicians all think they are King James and can rewrite the Bible. They can do that for all I care.”

The presenter then spoke to a lesbian Sikh caller who expressed her opposition to Mr Singh’s views. It was put to Mr Singh by Nihal that the “Guru never said that gay marriage was wrong.” The cleric replied: “The Guru never said that incest was wrong either. So stop being silly”.

He added: “I have drawn a distinction between what I think is a religious aspect, which I am not able to feel comfortable [attending], but I have no problem in a civil [same-sex marriage] because I don’t see that as equal with the religious aspect.”

Mr Singh described his position as a “good compromise”.