International News

India’s top court declines to legally recognise same-sex marriage in a landmark ruling

Graham Robson October 17, 2023

The top court in India has declined to legally recognise same-sex marriage in a landmark ruling, which was streamed live across the country and to crowds gathered outside the court.

During the two-hour ruling, Chief Justice D. Y. Chandrachud said queerness is a “natural phenomenon,” and told the government to ensure the “queer community is not discriminated against because of their gender identity or sexual orientation.”

Justice S. Ravindra Bhat said the right of LGBTQ+ couples to choose their partners was not contested, and they were entitled to celebrate their commitment to each other “in whichever way they wish within the social realm.”

However, he added: “This does not extend the right to claim any legal entitlement to any legal status for the same union or relationship.”

Bhat called for a “high-powered committee” to be formed to evaluate laws that indirectly discriminate against LGBTQ+ couples by denying them “compensatory benefits or social welfare entitlements” that usually come with being legally married.

“This court cannot within the judicial framework engage in this complex task, the state has to study the impact of these policies and entitlements,” he said.

India’s marriage laws bar millions of LGBTQ+ couples from accessing legal benefits attached to matrimony in relation to matters including adoption, insurance and inheritance.

More than a dozen petitioners had challenged the law, taking their case to the Supreme Court, which heard their arguments during hearings in April and May.

Susan Dias, one of the petitioners in the case, said she, along with her partner were “disappointed” with the verdict.

“We were hopeful that it would go a little more positively,” she said. “We filed the petition with the hope that we’d leave with some rights. So, definitely disappointment but I don’t think we’ve taken any steps back.”