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ADDED ON: 08/28/2021

Indian-American gay couples find new forms of union amid stigma

8/27/21 | BBC News

Excluded by traditional marriage ceremonies, Indian-American gay couples in the US are finding new and unique ways to solemnise their unions, reports Savita Patel. When Sameer Samudra and and Amit Gokhale decided to marry according to Hindu custom, the couple faced an unexpected hiccup: they couldn’t find a priest to do the ceremony. “We wanted a Hindu wedding, but so many pandits [priests] said no. I was agonised when one of them quoted an exorbitant amount just because I am gay!” said Sameer, who lives in North Carolina. Unwilling to have “the energy of a reluctant priest” at their wedding, the couple improvised. “One of our friends learnt the basics of being a priest and we chose Hindu rituals that made sense for a same-sex wedding,” Sameer said. So many Indian-American couples dream of a big fat Bollywood-style wedding, complete with traditional rituals. But that’s easier said than done for gay couples – even in the US where same-sex unions were legalised in 2015. More than 300,000 gay couples have wed in the country since then. But Indian-Americans say that they are often ostracised by those who have the holy task of solemnising their unions. Temples refusing to host same-sex weddings, priests hanging up on their phone calls or unwilling to tweak the ceremony to suit them and, in some cases, not even showing up on the day of the wedding – these experiences have driven Indian-American gay couples to fall back on friends and well-wishers to create unique ceremonies rooted in their culture. Sapna Pandya, for instance, became a priest herself although female priests are virtually unheard of in Hinduism. She did it because of the opposition she and her Pakistani Muslim wife, Seher, faced when they wanted to get married the traditional way. “I didn’t feel comfortable going to the temple to see a priest. My wife didn’t feel comfortable going to the mosque and asking an imam. So, we wrote our own ceremony,” Sapna said. They chose Hindu mantras and verses from the Koran that symbolised companionship.

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