India’s top court weighs the recognition of same-sex marriages
India’s top court on Friday ruled to continue a case over the legal recognition of same-sex marriages, four years after the same body overturned a colonial-era ban on gay sex.
The case, brought by a gay couple who exchanged vows informally last year, could pave the way for India to become the second jurisdiction in Asia after Taiwan to recognize same-sex marriage.
Petitioners Abhay Dange and Supriyo Chakraborty told the New Indian Express newspaper after their wedding ceremony that they hoped to “live in a world without closets”. They are now demanding the same marriage rights as heterosexual couples in the Supreme Court.
A bank led by Chief Justice Dhananjaya Chandrachud asked the government to submit its response within a month.
Any court ruling in favor of the couple’s petition would trump opposition from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, which has resisted previous attempts to officially recognize same-sex relationships in lower courts.
Last year, the government told the Delhi High Court that same-sex marriages “would upset the delicate balance of personal law in the country.”
Friday’s Supreme Court decision to continue the case follows significant rulings on sexual and family issues in recent years, including decriminalizing adultery and expanding India’s already sweeping abortion rights.
In 2018, the court overturned a law introduced by Britain more than 150 years ago that criminalized homosexual sex and threatened participants in consensual same-sex relationships with up to 10 years in prison.
The law was rarely enforced, but critics said it was routinely used to harass and intimidate India’s gay community.
Its repeal led to jubilant celebrations from LGBTQ Indians across the country and a raucous atmosphere at the annual Pride march in the capital, New Delhi, later that year.
LGBTQ Indians are still at risk of being shunned by their families and harassed by the public, but there are signs of changing attitudes among the country’s urban middle class.
Nuanced and complex portrayals of LGBTQ characters are a staple of popular media, such as the acclaimed portrayal of Bollywood actress Kubbra Sait as a transgender femme fatale in the Netflix series Sacred Games.
Several public figures have come out in recent years, including star sprinter Dutee Chand, who in 2019 became the first prominent Indian athlete to reveal she was in a same-sex relationship.