Same-sex marriage : LGBTQ+ Indians vow to fight on after setback

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Indian same sex marriage : LGBTQ+ Indians vow to fight on after setback

The Supreme Court declares that the parliament should determine the legitimacy of same-sex marriages, overturning the hopes of the LGBTQ+ community for swift legalization. The higher court of India does not consent to legitimizing homosexual unions. The judges of the Supreme Court believe it is up to parliament to decide. Advocates fear that the opposition government will hinder any changes. By Annie Banerji and Roli Srivastava

NEW DELHI/MUMBAI, 17 Oct (Openly) – On Tuesday, LGBTQ+ Indians vowed to persevere in their fight for marriage equality despite the Supreme Court’s refusal to legitimize homosexual unions. However, they anticipate a long delay due to the government’s opposition to such unions.

A bench of five judges left this thorny issue to the discretion of parliament, crushing the hopes of millions of LGBTQ+ people in the world’s most populous country, five years after the court finally abolished a colonial ban on homosexual relations.

The court also stipulated that same-sex couples do not have the right to adopt.

“We may stumble in our quest for equality, but our march forward remains unshakable,” said Saattvic, who uses only one name, a gay Indian living with his partner in Vancouver, Canada.

Describing the court’s decision as “discouraging,” Saattvic expressed that this had justified his relocation from the country to a nation where gay marriage is legal.

“My heart is heavy realizing that my homeland does not accept me as I am and does not consider me as an equal… I aspire for this reality to change soon,” said Saattvic, one of the many plaintiffs in this case.

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He and his partner aspire to celebrate a grand traditional Indian wedding surrounded by their loved ones.

The court accepted the government’s proposal to set up a panel to consider granting certain non-marital rights to same-sex couples concerning access to certain services and facilities such as joint bank accounts and pensions, from which they are currently excluded.

However, Philip C. Philip, an LGBTQ+ rights advocate based in Delhi, pointed out that without certainty about the composition of the panel or a timeline for parliament to draft a law, this offer seemed “completely meaningless.”

There was no immediate response from the government following the court’s decision. However, the administration of the nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi had previously challenged the petitions addressed to the court on this matter, arguing that gay marriage does not align with the traditional Indian concept of a family composed of a husband, wife, and children.

Many LGBTQ+ Indians believe that this means that parliament will probably not support marriage for all, at least in the short term, which will put them at a disadvantage compared to heterosexual couples.

“We are returning to a difficult and complicated existence under a government that chooses to turn a blind eye to our existence,” said Konika Roy, a bisexual residing in Mumbai.

“A PERPETUAL FIGHT” While LGBTQ+ Indians have made significant strides since the 2018 decision on homosexual relations – from their representation on television to an increased presence in politics and inclusive corporate policies – many still fear revealing their orientation.

They feel they are constantly victims of discrimination and mistreatment, preventing them from accessing decent jobs, medical care, education, and housing. Gay couples often face difficulties renting homes or making medical decisions for their partner in emergencies because they are not married.

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Parul, a finance professional, and her partner have granted each other power of attorney in case of medical emergencies, in case hospitals refuse to recognize them as related.

Like many gay couples, they hoped that the Supreme Court could make a decision that would remove these obstacles and allow them to marry in India.

“The hope was slim,” said Parul, who uses only one name and now plans to marry her partner in Denmark, although she doubts the marriage certificate will be recognized for joint bank accounts or insurance plans in India.

“It’s a constant fight,” she said.

Nevertheless, despite the court’s decision on marriage, some advocates noted that the judges made positive observations in their decision, for example, stating that transgender people in heterosexual relationships can marry under existing laws.

“Things are moving in the right direction, let’s stay positive,” said Padma Iyer, mother of Harish Iyer, a highly publicized gay rights advocate and one of the plaintiffs in this case.

Padma, co-founder of Rainbow Parents, a collective of parents of children identifying as LGBTQ+, sparked a national debate on gay marriage eight years ago by publishing an ad in a Mumbai newspaper seeking a husband for her son.

“We cannot rest. We know the challenges facing our children,” she said.

“I don’t know when this community will find peace.”

(Reported by Annie Banerji @anniebanerji in New Delhi and Roli Srivastava)

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