India: Supreme Court considers legalising same-sex marriage


Millions of LGBTIQ+ people in India could soon be given the right to marriage equality (Photo: ParthaKar49 / Shutterstock)

The Supreme Court of India this week heard arguments in a landmark case that, if successful, could instantly give millions of LGBTIQ+ people the right to marry.

Eighteen same-sex couples have petitioned the court to recognise their relationships by amending the 1954 Special Marriage Act to legalise same-sex marriage in the country.

“With the Constitution in our hearts, we go back to our court, for complete equality, full dignity and freedom worthy of our citizenship,” tweeted Menaka Guruswamy, one of the lawyers arguing for the couples, ahead of the hearings.

In an affidavit to the five-judge panel, the Indian government argued against marriage equality claiming that it reflects an “urban elitist view for the purpose of social acceptance”.

The government has previously said that a same-sex relationship could not be seen as equal to an opposite-sex relationship.

It has warned that legalising same-sex marriage would entail “a virtual judicial rewriting of an entire branch of law” and insists that the issue should be decided by lawmakers, not the courts.

India has seen a rapid and seismic shift on LGBTIQ+ equality

Hindu, Muslim, Jain, Sikh and Christian leaders in India have also expressed their opposition to legalising same-sex marriage.

Mukul Rohatgi, another lawyer representing the couples, told the court that it was ultimately a simple matter.

“The LGBT+ community as equal citizens under the constitution, are entitled to the same benefits. Hence, the benefits flowing from marriages should also be extended to the same-sex couples,” Rohatgi said.

The country, set to shortly become the most populated nation in the world, has seen a rapid and seismic shift on LGBTIQ+ equality in recent years. It was only in 2018 that the Indian Supreme Court decriminalised consensual adult homosexuality.

This week’s hearings have heightened debate on marriage equality among the public and in the media, with ‘marriage equality’ trending on Twitter.

If same-sex marriage becomes legal in India, it will become the first nation in South Asia and the 35th in the world to have achieved marriage equality.

The hearings are set to continue on Monday.

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