We’ve Legalised Homosexuality, then What’s Stopping Us from Allowing Same-Sex Marriage?

Social Commentary

We’ve Legalised Homosexuality, then What’s Stopping Us from Allowing Same-Sex Marriage?

Illustration: Reynold Mascarenhas

India took a step in the right direction in 2018 by striking down Section 377 and decriminalising homosexuality. However, when it comes to giving more rights to members of the LGBTQIA+ community, progress has been stunted. On Monday, the Centre opposed a plea filed before the Delhi High Court seeking recognition of same-sex marriage under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1956.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, on behalf of the government, said that such marriages were not recognised under the “Indian culture or Indian law”.

Mehta said that a marriage could happen only between “a husband and a wife” and that several statutory provisions have to be altered to allow same-sex marriages. “My legal take is that it is not permissible,” he said during a hearing in the Delhi High Court. He added that “our law, our legal system, our society, our values do not recognise” same-sex marriages.

The Bench comprising Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan pointed out that “changes are happening across the world” and that we should view the petition with an open mind. Mehta maintained that the 2018 Supreme Court judgement in Navtej Singh Johar’s case was only to decriminalise consensual homosexual activities, “nothing more, nothing less”.

The plea was filed by four members of the queer community stating that the non-registration of same-sex marriage was a violation of right to equality and right to life. “In the 21st century, there is no reason that same-sex couples should not enjoy the same rights as others,” said Raghav Awasthi, advocate for the petitioners.

“Equality is important. We have people from the diverse LGBTQIA+ communities who are refused by registrars to accept or register their marriage ceremonies. I want to marry my partner, too, and register our relationship,” said Gopi Shankar, one of the petitioners.

In 2o20, the Solicitor General’s arguments opposing same-sex seems archaic and have received criticism on social media.

But some still have hope.

On social media, #YesHomoVivah started trending in solidarity with members of the LGBTQIA+ community.

The case has been adjourned to October, asking the petitioner counsel to bring out instances of people who are aggrieved at the non-registration of same-sex marriages. The fight is long, and one hopes we, as a society, end up on the right side of history when it comes to giving our fellow citizens the equal rights they deserve.