Same-sex marriage: Knot just yet 

Battling for dignity, gathering hope, the LGBTQIA+ community eagerly awaited the marriage equality verdict of the Supreme Court on Tuesday. 
Express Illustration
Express Illustration

KOCHI: Battling for dignity, gathering hope, the LGBTQIA+ community eagerly awaited the marriage equality verdict of the Supreme Court on Tuesday. As the five-judge bench refused to interfere and passed the matter to the legislature, members of the queer community and allies share their views and  concerns

Syama S Prabha, secretary, Queerythm NGO  
I appreciate the many positive observations the Apex court made. However, I expected the verdicts to be a bit more stronger in terms of directions to the Union government. But it fell short. We already know the government’s view, which was declared in an affidavit to the court, maintaining that a family unit is made of ‘biological man’ as husband and ‘biological woman’ as wife. Moreover, this judgment will not effectively help transpeople in heterosexual relationships to register their marriage. After Manu (a transman) and I (a transwoman) got married, we moved the High Court to register our marriage. The case is still going on. The issue is transpeople’s gender is specified in IDs as ‘transgender’, not as a transwoman, transman, or any other 16 gender identities. This means, on the document, it is considered a transgender marrying a transgender — even though we are not the same sex. There are regulatory changes needed to register our marriage, and the judgment hasn’t mentioned that part. So, overall, the word disappointed sums up my sentiments.

Deepa Vasudevan, founder of Sahayatrika NGO, a petitioner
The verdicts are deeply disappointing. Many of us believed that the SC would continue to uphold and expand the community’s rights based on our right to equality. Despite the progressive statements made by CJI D Y Chandrachud and Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, the verdict doesn’t appear to give any new recognition of rights. It is going to be a long journey ahead. We will have to see whether the conclusion of the five-member bench that marriage equality cannot be addressed constitutionally gets overturned by future Supreme Court rulings, or whether we could ever obtain recognition for civil unions and same sex marriage through the popular morality of legislative bodies. However, the positive takeaway is the recognition among all the judges that LGBTQIA+ people deserve protection from coercion and violence. We hope to effectively use the observations in our advocacy for the community.

Mx Gaadha, queer health researcher
It’s disheartening to read how the government has tried to discredit us  — calling us urban elites and accusing queerness of being an imported culture. The queer community is as diverse as it gets, and we all have our own ideas and lifestyles. Be that as it may, we have survived and existed within the Indian psyche, and are here to stay. Marriage for cis heteronormal citizens has been safeguarded as a normalised reality. After the NALSA judgment recognising transgender individuals and the decriminalisation of consensual homosexual activities among adults, marriage equality should have been the logical next step. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Well, it’s been a long long fight, and doesn’t look like it’s going to end any time soon. But one takeaway is that we have a window of opportunity, to persuade the Kerala state to make queer affirmative legislation. Kerala has too many toxic anti-queer elements, especially in digital spaces. I am afraid the latest verdicts would embolden them further. We are back to square one. But, we don’t have the privilege to admit defeat, as our future is at stake. 

Sukanth, IT professional
The verdict was disappointing. We are in 2023 and if this is still debatable then we are failing as a constituency to even respect fundamental human rights. I wasn’t expecting a legalisation but at least something on the lines of civil unions would’ve been a huge win for the community. Decriminalisation of homosexuality in India was a significant milestone, but achieving marriage equality and comprehensive protection of LGBTQ+ rights may take time and continued effort. The legal system is just one component of a broader societal and cultural context. Progress may involve legal reforms, public awareness, and shifts in societal attitudes. 

Priyank Sukanand, a special educator and co-founder of Queer Collective India
I was initially confused with the verdict. It felt like the judges intentionally wanted to begin with some positive news and end with opposing most, and almost all of the expected provisions. The end of the verdict felt like an empty announcement filled with lots of empathy and support but no actual change. Meanwhile, the Union government this last decade has shown us one thing, it is the zero inclusion, fascism, and endorsement of widespread hate. The fight for our rights doesn’t end here. The Section 377 battle took 18 years. This one might take more. We will not be silenced. We will not back down.

Pooja Sood, director, Khoj
Everyone should have the option to seek legal union and marry and seek their preferred partner of choice, regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity. Everyone should have a right to parenthood, regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity. These legal rights are fundamental because it is about/it confers dignity of choice, dignity of life, and equality for queer individuals and couples who wish to consider union, marriage and parenthood. Legal recognition will proliferate social recognition and enable the queer community civil liberty, civil justice, safety and dignity and eventually a truer acceptance within the cultural mosaic of society.

Aditya Tiwari, author, Over the Rainbow: India’s Queer Heroes
It’s appalling that even in 2023, we have to fight for our fundamental rights. Today, I ask you: Why do we not have the same rights as our heterosexual counterparts? I feel that the decision will be a double-edged sword because of how people perceive LGBTQ+ people in Indian society. Many argue that we’re just a handful of people, but let me tell you these are the same “handful of people” who have moved the courts time and time again and it is because of our resistance that India scrapped 377. But despite that, many people continue to live in the shadows in small towns of India like Jabalpur, or Raipur, Rampur or Bilaspur due to fear of humiliation and rejection. There’s so much hatred both online and offline and that needs to go away.  Being queer in India remains to be a political proclamation. In my opinion, marriage equality will definitely change many lives and fill young people like me with hope for a better future. It will be a step closer towards an equal India, a diverse India — that I feel is the future.

Felix, volunteer, Orinam
I believe the judgement didn’t give any significant relief to the LGBTQIA+ across India. One noticeable and welcome thing is that transpeople who were in heterosexual relationships,  earlier had a bit of practical difficulty in getting their marriage registered. At least, that has been clarified in this judgement, both in the Hindu Marriage Act and Special Marriage Act. But what happens to trans people in non-heterosexual marriages or non-binary people — all of that is unclear. What they have also done is send the entire battle back to the government whose views we very clearly know from the way they argued the case in the SC. We have known their views in general as well about the LGBTQIA+ community. This is going to be a huge uphill battle for the community across India to work with the government and figure out what can be done. It is like getting back to square-one.

Senthil, programme director at Queer Chennai Chronicles
Pride has been a riot and achieving rights has never been an easy task. For decriminalisation itself, it took almost 18 years. The Delhi High Court upheld the Naz Foundation (case) and said the queer folks are decriminalised. That went to the Supreme Court and was criminalised again by Justice Singhvi. It took another Navtej case to decriminalise again, on September 6, 2018. When Justice Chandrachud started the verdict, I was expecting something positive, then I realised these are directions and not a judgement or an order given to the government. It was a bit disheartening. At this point of time, I don’t trust the Parliament at all. Looking at the comments coming from representatives and MPs, they have consistently been homophobic or queerphobic from the present and past regime. There should be some formulation or committee formed with queer folks who have worked with queer community from the grassroot level. My heart goes out for the entire queer community of the country but we have to gather together for the major fights. 

(Compiled by Archita Raghu, Diya Maria George, Dese Gowda, Krishna P S, Paramita Ghosh) 

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