India’s Top Court Refuses to Legalise Same-Sex Marriages

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In recent developments, the Supreme Court of India, also known as India’s top court, has refused to legally recognise same-sex unions in a landmark ruling that strssed the rights of the LGBTQ community to be free of prejudice and discrimination.

Supporters of the LGBTQ had earlier sought to obtain the right to marry under Indian law, giving them access to the same privileges extended to heterosexual couples. That, however, was denied but the court recognised their relationships, which they welcomed.

The verdict on same-sex marriage was delivered by a five-judge constitution bench led by India’s chief justice, and streamed live across the country and to crowds outside the court who were there to watch on their cellphones.

Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud said being queer is a “natural phenomenon,” and urged the government to ensure the “queer community is not discriminated against because of their gender identity or sexual orientation.”

Justice S. Ravindra Bhat said the right of LGBTQ couples to choose their partners was not a challenge or something to contend with, and they have the right to celebrate their commitment to each other “in whichever way they wish within the social realm,” he said, adding that “this does not extend the right to claim any legal entitlement to any legal status for the same union or relationship.”

Justice Bhat called for a “high-powered committee” that will evaluate laws that indirectly discriminate against LGBTQ couples by denying them “compensatory benefits or social welfare entitlements” that usually is a perk of being legally married.

“This court cannot within the judicial framework engage in this complex task; the state has to study the impact of these policies and entitlements,” he said.

India’s marriage laws bar millions of LGBTQ couples from accessing legal benefits attached to being legally married in relation to matters including adoption, insurance and inheritance, and more than a dozen petitioners challenged the law and took their case to the Supreme Court, which heard their arguments during hearings in April and May.

Susan Dias, one of the petitioners in the case, said she and her partner are “disappointed” with the verdict.

“We were hopeful that it would go a little more positively,” she said. “We filed the petition with the hope that we’d leave with some rights. So, definitely disappointment but I don’t think we’ve taken any steps back.”

Lawyer for the government, Solicitor Tushar Mehta, made a submission to the court earlier this year, where he called same-sex marriage an “urban” and “elitist” concept, one that is “far removed from the social ethos of the country.”

Dozens of LGBTQ activists and supporters gathered outside the Supreme Court in New Delhi while the verdict was being read. Some welcomed the judgement and took it as a progressive move, while others said it wasn’t good enough.

20 year old Pranav Grover said it was a “diplomatic” verdict. “It came in perspective with keeping both parties happy,” he said, adding: “Let’s start to focus on the positive.”

Amrita, who goes by the pronouns she/they, said although it was “very nice to be recognised by the justices,” it was, however, time to “get a move on.”

Suvir Saran, celebrity chef and LGBTQ activist, said while the Supreme Court “didn’t give us the right to marry, it has used the bench as a classroom for educating the legislators and the citizens about homosexuality and the others.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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