One of the strange turns in Bahá’í legal history was the reversal of the Báb’s progressive consent decree. Bahá’u’lláh, having perhaps thought the Báb’s view on marriage too liberal, judged that parents ought to have a say in whom their children marry:
“It hath been laid down in the Bayan that marriage is dependent upon the consent of both parties. Desiring to establish love, unity and harmony amidst Our servants, We have conditioned it, once the couple’s wish is known, upon the permission of their parents, lest enmity and rancour should arise amongst them.”
I haven’t been able to find the Báb’s statement on the matter, but no matter since Bahá’u’lláh’s word is reliable enough for his followers.
To take this a step further, authoritative Bahá’í jurisprudence has dictated—and I might note without a hint of disapproval from Bahá’ís—that with regard to consent, the “parent” must be regarded as the natural parent (Directives of the Guardian, #122).
So we have it that the parents who have actually raised a child do not necessarily have any say in the matter, whether the natural parent be an addict, an invalid, or a sperm donor.
Furthermore, this decree tends to have a divisive influence on the family inasmuch as it does not permit parents to abstain from this obligation, compelling many parents to meddle where they might otherwise have sought to respect the choices of their adult children.
Though this would seem to be a regressive, ill-considered move to the modern observer and traditionalist alike, Bahá’ís are duty-bound to see it as “progressive.”