On October 17, 2023, the Supreme Court of India delivered a landmark verdict on the issue of same-sex marriage, igniting a spectrum of emotions and discussions across the nation. The ruling was met with both elation and disappointment, highlighting the intricate and evolving nature of India’s stance on LGBTQIA+ rights. This blog aims to provide a comprehensive analysis of the critical elements surrounding this verdict, shedding light on the constitutional and legal framework that influenced the outcome, and offering an insightful background on the issue itself.
The journey towards LGBTQIA+ rights in India has been an arduous one. In 2018, the Supreme Court marked a monumental milestone by decriminalizing homosexuality in the historic Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India case. This watershed moment saw the demise of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which had previously criminalized same-sex relationships. It signified the recognition of the dignity and equality of LGBTQIA+ individuals under the law.
Nevertheless, the issue of recognizing same-sex marriages remained a contentious one, leading to a series of pleas before the Supreme Court. The legal landscape was further complicated by varying perspectives from religious leaders, such as Maulana Sajid Rashidi, who vehemently opposed recognizing such marriages, contending that they were incompatible with Indian values and were adopted from the West.
The Supreme Court’s judgement on same-sex marriages, delivered by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Justice DY Chandrachud, featured a notable 3:2 split. It denied legal recognition to same-sex marriages and underscored several pivotal points:
- No Legal Recognition: The court unequivocally stated that same-sex marriages would not be legally recognized in India.
- No Constitutional or Fundamental Right to Civil Unions: The judgement reiterated that there is no explicit constitutional or fundamental right to civil unions for LGBTQIA+ couples.
- Center’s High-Powered Committee: The verdict called for the establishment of a high-powered committee to examine concerns of same-sex couples.
- No Right for Queer Couples to Jointly Adopt: The decision indicated that same-sex couples do not possess the right to jointly adopt children.
Constitutional and Legal Framework
The verdict mirrors the intricate interplay between societal dynamics, cultural values, and legal principles in India. It is crucial to grasp the constitutional and legal framework that shaped the decision:
- Section 377: The 2018 ruling to invalidate Section 377 laid the groundwork for discussions on LGBTQIA+ rights, underlining the principle of non-discrimination enshrined in the Indian Constitution.
- Equal Protection Under the Law: The Constitution of India guarantees equal protection of the laws to all citizens. This principle was central to the arguments presented by LGBTQIA+ activists and their legal representatives.
- Freedom and Privacy: The Supreme Court recognized the right to privacy in the Puttaswamy judgement. This played a pivotal role in framing the arguments for same-sex marriage, emphasizing the autonomy of individuals in making personal choices.
- Changing Social Norms: Evolving social norms and international legal developments, including the recognition of same-sex marriage in various countries, influenced the broader context in which this decision was made.
The Ongoing Struggle
While the verdict may not have granted legal recognition to same-sex marriages, it has ignited conversations regarding the rights and dignity of LGBTQIA+ individuals. Dissenting opinions, such as that of Justice Ravindra Bhat, underscore the importance of acknowledging the rights to privacy, dignity, and the freedom to choose one’s partner.
Activists like Anjali Gopalan and Harish Iyer remain unwavering in their commitment to the cause, emphasizing the democratic values of India and the need to ensure that no citizen is denied their fundamental rights.
The judgment handed down by the Chief Justice of India (CJI) on the subject of same-sex marriage presents a balanced and nuanced perspective on a matter of profound societal significance.
- Preserving Legislative Authority: The CJI underscores that the judiciary cannot amend the existing Special Marriage Act to explicitly encompass same-sex couples. This reaffirms the principle of separation of powers, with the responsibility for crafting legislation resting with the legislature.
- Equal Rights to Unions: The CJI emphasizes that individuals within the LGBTQIA+ community possess an equal right to form a “union.” It is stressed that the state’s failure to acknowledge the full spectrum of entitlements arising from such unions would disproportionately impact queer couples currently unable to engage in legal matrimony.
- The CJI’s verdict places the responsibility of legalizing same-sex marriage squarely on the shoulders of the legislative body. However, it delivers a resounding message that the state must not ignore or discriminate against the “unions” or relationships formed by queer couples. This verdict is in alignment with the growing global movement for LGBTQIA+ rights, urging legislative bodies to mirror evolving societal norms and uphold the principles of equality.
What is LGBTQIA+?
The acronym LGBTQIA+ represents Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer (or Questioning), Intersex, Asexual, and other identities or orientations. This inclusive term is used to encompass a wide spectrum of sexual orientations and gender identities, extending beyond the traditional heterosexual and cisgender categories. The “+” at the end of the acronym serves as a symbol of recognition for additional identities and orientations that may not be explicitly mentioned, underscoring the commitment to inclusivity and respect for individuals across diverse gender and sexual spectrums.
Also Read: Self Respect Marriage
Source: The Hindu