In a historic move, four gay couples in India have filed petitions to the country’s Supreme Court seeking the legalization of same-sex marriage. The case will be heard in March, and a favorable ruling would make India the largest democracy in the world to recognize same-sex marriage. The move comes more than four years after the top court in India decriminalized gay sex.
Homosexuality in India has faced stigma and isolation in the past, but in recent years the country has become more accepting of the LGBTQ community. Legal rights for LGBTQ individuals in India have been expanding, with the Supreme Court taking a significant role in these changes. In 2014, the court legally recognized non-binary or transgender persons as a “third gender,” and in 2018, it struck down a colonial-era law that had made gay sex punishable by up to ten years in prison.
Despite this progress, the ruling Hindu nationalist government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has opposed the recognition of same-sex marriage. The government has argued that same-sex marriage would cause “complete havoc with the delicate balance of personal laws in the country” and be “against the cultural ethos of the country.” However, the Supreme Court has signaled it could challenge the government’s position, and gay couples and LGBTQ activists argue that by refusing to recognize same-sex marriage, the government is depriving homosexual couples of their right to equality enshrined in the constitution.