India’s Supreme Court has declined to grant legal recognition to same-sex marriages in the country, stating that the matter should be decided by the parliament.
A divided verdict: The five-judge bench of the Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice D. Y. Chandrachud, handed the divided verdict on Oct 17. While two judges supported same-sex civil unions, the majority verdict ruled against legalizing same-sex marriages. The decision comes five years after the decriminalization of homosexuality in India in 2018.
In the ruling, Chief Justice Chandrachud emphasized that LGBTQ+ individuals should have the right to choose their partners and cohabit without facing discrimination. He instructed the government to form a high-level committee to examine the concerns and rights of same-sex couples, highlighting that queerness is not confined to urban elites.
A disappointed community: Campaigners and petitioners, including dozens of LGBTQ+ couples and activists, expressed their disappointment at the verdict. Ankita Khanna, one of the petitioners, described it as a “deeply divided judgment,” according to The Guardian. Emphasizing the resilience of the queer community, Khanna stated that they would continue to move forward in solidarity.
“I didn’t expect it would be a very good judgment but it feels much worse than expected,” Uday Raj Anand, a petitioner in the case, told Reuters
. “What I had thought was that at least the court would make its stand clear, say that it is not in a position to make or change law but they would certainly direct the government to do it.”
A complicated history: India’s LGBTQ+ community, which celebrates gay pride and has a deep historical connection to gender diversity, has long faced challenges due to colonial-era laws that criminalized same-sex relations. While the Supreme Court struck down these laws in 2018, attitudes towards LGBTQ+ rights remain complex, with conservative viewpoints persisting amid growing public acceptance.
A call for legislative action: The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party government argued through its lawyer Solicitor General Tushar Mehta that same-sex marriages were an “urban” and “elitist” concept and not in line with the traditional Indian family unit concept, according to CNN.
The government maintained that instead of the courts, the issue of same-sex unions in India should be decided by parliament, not the courts. In effect, this decision has now placed the responsibility to address the matter to the legislature.