This March, India’s highest court will prepare to hear arguments on whether to legalize same-sex marriage. There are no laws in India criminalizing homosexuality, and equal rights for India’s LGBTQ community have been steadily expanding. Many of these changes have been spearheaded by the Supreme Court. In 2018, India decriminalized same-sex relations, overturning a years-old Colonial-era ruling.
The current ruling party in India, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), opposed modifying the Hindu Marriage Act to include same-sex couples in 2020. However, the Hindu population, roughly 80% of the country, has gradually shifted its views when it comes to gay rights. In 2018, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a Hindu-nationalist group, agreed with the top court ruling decriminalizing same-sex intercourse. However, the RSS maintained that homosexual relationships were neither natural nor desirable. According to a Pew survey, acceptance of homosexuality in India increased to 37% between 2013 and 2019.
The Supreme Court agreed to hear the petition of two same-sex couples in November. The case has since grown, absorbing similar petitions in other jurisdictions. In India, different laws govern marriage based on religion, while interfaith couples follow the Special Marriage Act. This petition has the potential to shift all of these laws in order to acknowledge same-sex marriage, regardless of faith.
Utkarsh Saxena, and his partner Ananya Kotia, are one of the couples who petitioned the Supreme Court for the legalization of same-sex marriage.
“Our relationship has been…undefined for so long that we would like it to now be embraced in the same way as any other couples’ relationship,” says Saxena.
In addition to alleviating social stigma, legalizing same-sex marriage would remove many of the hurdles experienced by same-sex couples in India today. Under the current law, LGBTQ individuals cannot inherit and own property, and same-sex couples must apply for adoption as single parents.
Even without the legal right to marriage, many same-sex couples in India still participate in commitment ceremonies, particularly in larger cities.
“I think we would like a big wedding,” says Saxena, in the hope that he and Kotia will have a large wedding if the court rules in their favor.