The Supreme Court of India struck a profound blow to the LGBTQ+ community by denying legal recognition to same-sex marriages in a landmark judgement. This verdict is a huge legal defeat for LGBTQ+ people in India, and it has sent shockwaves across the community. Given the changing legal landscape and a growing emphasis on individual rights, expectations were high.
A five-judge Constitution Bench, backed by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, effectively defers the responsibility of legalizing same-sex marriages to the legislature. On the opposing side, Justices S. Ravindra Bhat, Hima Kohli, and P.S. Narasimha held that such recognition could only be achieved through statute and expressed division on the issue, resulting in four separate judgments from the bench. While two judges supported same-sex civil unions, the majority verdict ruled against them and chose not to interpret the Special Marriage Act (SMA) in a gender-neutral way, which would have brought same-sex marriages within its ambit.
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This ruling has sparked a heated discussion in India over the rights and acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community. Despite the Supreme Court repealing colonial-era laws against homosexuality in 2018, cultural conservatism persists in the country, resulting in opposition to expanding marriage rights to same-sex couples who continue to experience discrimination and harassment. This decision not only disproves the idea that discrimination against same-sex couples will be eliminated, but it also emphasizes that the freedom to marry is subject to legal constraints. While the majority is opposed to providing queer couples with the possibility to adopt children, they agree with the minority that there should be no limits on transgender people entering heterosexual marriages.
Ankita Khanna, one of the case’s petitioners, voiced great regret and confusion about the law’s response to the difficulties confronting the wide-ranging queer community. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government objected to the case, arguing that it should be resolved in parliament rather than in court. The petitioners, who included LGBTQ+ couples and advocates, wanted to change India’s Special Marriage Act to include same-sex couples, offering them vital rights and recognition.
The possibility of parliamentary action looks bleak since India remains split on the subject, with many opposing same-sex weddings on religious and cultural grounds. However, the Supreme Court’s order to the government to form a commission to assess the rights and privileges of queer couples gives a little comfort. While the Supreme Court’s judgment may not bring immediate relief, it emphasizes the need to fight for LGBTQ+ rights for future generations. The Chief Justice, DY Chandrachud, emphasized that LGBTQ+ people have the freedom to choose their partners and cohabit. They are not subject to legal discrimination. He directed that a high-level committee be set up to investigate the problems, rights, and welfare entitlements of same-sex couples.
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Although disappointing, this verdict may act as a catalyst for change, with the LGBTQ+ community continuing its fight for equality. Being able to marry is more than just a ceremonial gesture; marriage entails important advantages and privileges such as insurance, adoption, and inheritance.
In India, the path towards full acceptance and equality for same-sex couples continues. The government’s pledge to remove barriers to LGBTQ+ couple’s access to crucial paperwork and pension benefits provides a sense of hope. However, the road ahead is fraught with difficulties, and the campaign for marital equality in the queer community remains.
In a country where traditional beliefs frequently clash with the evolving context of individual rights, India’s LGBTQ+ population remains steadfast in its quest for a more inclusive future. The struggle continues, and all eyes are on the Supreme Court as the fight for marriage equality in India continues.