In a significant decision, India’s Supreme Court has rejected the appeal to legalize same-sex marriage, dealing a blow to LGBTQ rights in the country with the world’s largest population. This ruling came after a five-judge bench deliberated on the matter between April and May, and it has sparked a nationwide conversation on the future of LGBTQ rights in India.
Chief Justice Dhananjaya Yeshwant Chandrachud, while announcing the verdict, emphasized that the court’s role is not to make decisions on legislative matters such as marriage laws. He maintained that it was the responsibility of the parliament to draft and amend marriage laws. Chandrachud stated, “The court, in the exercise of the power of judicial review, must steer clear of matters, particularly those impinging on policy, which fall in the legislative domain.”
Nevertheless, Justice Chandrachud advocated for legal protections for same-sex couples, asserting that withholding “benefits and services” from them, which are granted to heterosexual couples, infringes upon their fundamental rights. He argued that choosing a life partner is an integral aspect of one’s life choices and that this right is deeply rooted in the right to life and liberty under Article 21 of India’s constitution.
This verdict emerged following a petition that contended that the refusal to recognize same-sex unions violated the constitutional rights of LGBTQ individuals. While the Bharatiya Janata Party government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, opposed the petition, arguing that the issue should be addressed by parliament and characterizing the appeal as representing an urban and elitist perspective.
The Supreme Court’s decision, while not immediately legalizing same-sex marriage, has opened the door for discussions on LGBTQ rights and the need for legal protections for same-sex couples in India. The country now faces important questions about the path to equality and the role of the parliament in shaping the future of LGBTQ rights.