Taking the right step forward

Four years after India decriminalized homosexuality and claimed that the continued stigmatization of consensual same-sex relationships was unjustified and unconstitutional, the country stands on the cusp of another era of civil rights. Two couples have approached the Supreme Court with petitions demanding legal recognition of same-sex couples and legal support for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual (LGBTQIA+) communities. marry the person of your choice. A high court bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud issued a notice to the Union government, requesting a response within four weeks. If the petition is successful, it will allow India to join a club of just 30 countries that have legalized same-sex marriage, and mark one of the fastest journeys from decriminalizing same-sex relationships to granting them legal recognition anywhere in the world. world.

But regardless of the fate of these petitions, the mere fact of their existence speaks volumes for the remarkable progress in society and the mindsets precipitated by members of the community and the legal advances they have helped spur. The 2018 verdict made it possible for queer people across the country, from small towns and villages, not just metropolises, to come to court to affirm their love, thwart parental and police violence, imagine dignified and respectful lives, and end with discrimination and partiality. Yes, the change came slowly and often in increasingly frustrating steps, but the direction of the movement: High courts recognizing the marriage of a trans person, issuing guidelines to medical professionals and police to safeguard LGBTQIA+ rights, calling for the police to protect gay couples from family violence. and to affirm, over and over again, that having alternative sexualities and genders is not a crime, is unequivocal.

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What does same-sex marriage bring to the mix? It is the realization of a crucial part of civil rights, ensuring that queer people are not discriminated against when it comes to state recognition, financial services, government benefits, and family planning and protection. It enables the full potential of these queer people to be realized, as individuals, as Indians, as citizens. And it signals to the world and to Indian society that discrimination cannot continue to be the norm.

The Supreme Court has done well to agree to hear the petitioners. After all, a bunch of similar petitions were pending before various higher courts but with little progress due to state inaction. Of course, social turnover takes time and generates resistance, and naturally there are many objections and positions that will need to be considered and deliberated. But by granting the petitioners their day in court, the SC has made one thing clear: that the direction of progress for dignity and human rights can only be in one direction, forward.