In a landmark decision today, a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court of India refused to legalize same sex marriage, sparking a nationwide debate on LGBTQ+ rights and personal freedoms. Chief Justice of India, DY Chandrachud, delivered the court’s opinion, highlighting the universality of queer identity and the importance of the right to choose one’s life partner.
In a comprehensive statement, Chief Justice Chandrachud asserted that “homosexuality or queerness is not an urban concept or restricted to the upper classes of society. It is not an English-speaking man with a white-collar job who can claim to be queer but equally a woman working in an agricultural job in a village. Queerness can be regardless of one’s caste or class or socio-economic status.” This perspective emphasized that queer individuals, regardless of their background, have the same fundamental rights.
Supreme Court refuses to legalise same sex marriage
Furthermore, Chief Justice Chandrachud argued that choosing a life partner is a vital aspect of determining one’s life course, stating that “this right goes to the root of the right to life and liberty under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.” He firmly held that the right to enter into a union cannot be restricted based on sexual orientation.
While Justice Kaul expressed support for Chief Justice Chandrachud’s views, Justices Ravindra Bhat, PS Narasimha, and Hima Kohli opposed the decision, arguing that there is no unqualified right to marriage. Justice Bhat contended that conferring legal status to civil union can only be achieved through enacted law, suggesting that the legislature should be responsible for addressing this matter. Justice Narasimha maintained that the right to marriage is a statutory right or flows from custom.
In a bid to address the concerns of same sex couples, the Supreme Court has called upon the government to form a panel that will explore and address the issues surrounding LGBTQ+ rights, marriage, and legal recognition. This move is seen as a potential step towards progress and a more inclusive approach to marriage rights in India.
The decision has sparked diverse reactions from citizens, LGBTQ+ advocacy groups, and legal experts, with some celebrating it as a step towards equality, while others express disappointment at the refusal to grant legal recognition to same sex marriages. The outcome is expected to continue shaping the ongoing conversation around LGBTQ+ rights and personal freedoms in India.