India’s top court refuses to legalise same-sex marriage


Kavita Arora and Ankita Khanna, lesbian Indian couple fighting for same-sex marriage
Kavita Arora and Ankita Khanna went to court to fight for same-sex marriage. Photo: Supplied

India’s top court has ruled against allowing same-sex marriage but in favour of other legal rights, in a highly-anticipated ruling in the world’s most populous country.

Twenty-one Indian same-sex couples and LGBTQIA+ activists took their case to the Supreme Court earlier this year.

They argued being excluded from India’s “marriage-based culture” violated their constitutional rights and makes them “second-class citizens”.

On Tuesday, a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court delivered the ruling after hearings earlier this year.

The judges ruled that granting the couples marriages was outside the court’s scope and was ultimately up to the Indian parliament.

But Chief Justice Dhananjaya Yeshwant Chandrachud instructed the government to uphold same-sex couples’ rights and end discrimination against them.

The judge ruled that Indian gay couples be allowed to adopt children together, in a major change.

He said denying same-sex couples “benefits and services” available to heterosexual couples violated their rights.

“Choosing a life partner is an integral part of choosing one’s course of life,” he said.

“Some may regard this as the most important decision of their life. This right goes to the root of the right to life and liberty under [India’s constitution].”

The Indian government has opposed same-sex marriage, saying the parliament should debate the reform instead.

But it has also said same-sex marriages are against Indian culture and not “comparable with the Indian family unit concept of a husband, a wife and children”.

Last month marked the fifth anniversary of a historic 2018 Supreme Court judgment in India finally striking down a Colonial-era ban on gay sex.

However same-sex couples in India still face inequality and discrimination without legal recognition from same-sex marriage.

In Asia, only Taiwan and Nepal have legalised same-sex marriages, in 2019 and 2023 respectively.

Read next: ‘We do’: Gay couple throw beautiful traditional Indian wedding

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Jordan Hirst
Jordan Hirst

Jordan Hirst is an experienced journalist and content creator with a career spanning over a decade at QNews. Since 2012, the Brisbane local has covered an enormous range of topics and subjects in-depth affecting the LGBTIQA+ community, both in Australia and overseas. Today, the Brisbane-based journalist covers everything from current affairs, politics and health to sport and entertainment.

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