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India’s Supreme Court rejects plea to legalize same-sex marriage

Sathia Kumar

Supreme Court of India

The Supreme Court of India has rejected the petition to legalize same-sex marriage. The verdict of the bench headed by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud came on the basis of the judgment of the majority of judges.

The court also said that they do not have the power to legalize such marriages, but Parliament has the power to make laws.

The judges asked the Center to take steps to set up a committee to address practical issues like ration cards, pensions, gratuity and inheritance to same-sex couples.

India’s government and religious leaders strongly opposed same-sex marriage.

The Supreme Court of India heard the petitions of 18 same-sex couples seeking same-sex marriage as a constitutional right and various related cases. This judgment is based on that hearing.

Initial reaction to the verdict

Adheesh Agarwala, president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, held a press conference after the verdict and said, “I welcome the Supreme Court’s decision not to allow same-sex marriage.”

Some people wanted to destroy the Indian system, he added. But I am happy that the court has accepted what the government said that the court does not have the power to grant same-sex marriage rights. Only Parliament has this right.

People of all kinds of marginalized sexualities, including gays, transgenders, across the country awaited the court’s verdict on Tuesday.

The Chief Justice’s separate ruling after the ruling began gave hope that it might finally allow same-sex marriage. But after the majority verdict, they are disappointed that they did not get that approval.

Social activist Anjali Gopalan, one of the people on whose petition these cases were going on, said, We have been fighting for a long time, we will continue. Nothing was said about child adoption. What the Chief Justice said about adoption was very encouraging, but unfortunately he did not agree with the other judges. It is a democracy, but our citizens are being denied basic rights.

Judgment based on which case?

Eighteen same-sex couples petitioned the Supreme Court in 2022 seeking same-sex marriages under the Special Marriage Act, the Foreign Marriage Act and the Hindu Marriage Act. The petitioners claimed broader constitutional rights based on the right to life, personal liberty and dignity under Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution.

There were cases related to this in various High Courts. The Supreme Court consolidated all related cases and started hearing in March this year. Before that, the government was directed to give their views.

The central government filed an affidavit opposing same-sex marriage. They argued that the prevailing concept of the Indian family where a man and a woman are united. Religious and social norms are also associated with this concept of family.

Several state governments have also expressed support for disallowing same-sex marriage. The case was referred to the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court. The same bench gave its verdict on Tuesday.

Countries where same-sex marriage is legal

If the Supreme Court had legalized same-sex marriage, India would have become one of the 35 countries in the world. The Netherlands first allowed same-sex marriage in 2001. Taiwan became the first in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage in 2019.

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