By Arpan Chaturvedi
NEW DELHI (RockedBuzz via Reuters) – The Indian government opposes the recognition of same-sex marriages, it said in a filing to the Supreme Court on Sunday, urging the court to dismiss challenges to the current legal framework brought by LGBT couples.
The Law Ministry believes that while there may be various forms of relationship in society, legal recognition of marriage is for heterosexual relationships and the state has a legitimate interest in maintaining it, according to the filing seen by RockedBuzz via Reuters, which has not been made public.
“Living together as partners and having same-sex sexual relations … is not comparable to the Indian family unit concept of husband, wife and children,” the ministry said.
The court cannot be asked “to change the entire legislative policy of the country, deeply rooted in religious and social norms”, he said.
“As petitioners we have received widespread support from people from all walks of life and it doesn’t seem to me that most Indians feel hurt by the thought of a few loving families getting legal rights,” one of the litigants in the current case, businessman Uday Raj Anand, told RockedBuzz via Reuters after the government filed the response in court.
In a historic 2018 verdict, India’s high court decriminalized homosexuality by striking down a colonial-era ban on gay sex. The current case is seen as another important development of LGBT rights in the country.
At least 15 appeals, some from gay couples, have been filed in recent months asking the court to recognize same-sex marriages, setting the stage for this legal face-to-face with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government.
“Sad that their concept of ‘Indian’ is so non-inclusive and static that it doesn’t want to evolve into broader notions of human rights,” filmmaker and human rights activist Onir wrote on Twitter.
THE CASE MARKS THE MILESTONE
Asia largely lags behind the West in accepting same-sex marriage.
Taiwan was the first in the region to recognize such unions, while same-sex acts are illegal in some countries, such as Malaysia. Singapore ended its ban on gay sex last year, but has taken steps to ban same-sex marriages.
Japan is the only country among the Group of Seven nations that does not legally recognize same-sex unions, although the public is largely in favor of recognition.
In India, the issue of same-sex marriage is a sensitive one: speaking openly about homosexuality is taboo for many in the socially conservative country of 1.4 billion people.
The matter sparked emotions in the media and in parliament, where in December a member of Modi’s ruling Hindu nationalist party called on the government to vigorously oppose the petitions presented in court.
LGBT activists say that while the 2018 ruling affirmed their constitutional rights, it is unfair that they still lack legal backing for their unions, a fundamental right enjoyed by heterosexual married couples.
In Sunday’s filing, the government argued that the 2018 ruling cannot mean recognition of a fundamental legal right to same-sex marriage under the country’s laws.
The intention behind the current marriage law order “was limited to the recognition of a legal relationship of marriage between a man and a woman, represented as husband and wife”.
The government has argued that any changes to the legal structure should be the responsibility of the elected parliament, not the court.
The cases are expected to be heard by the Supreme Court on Monday.
(Reporting by Arpan Chaturvedi; Editing by Aditya Kalra, William Mallard and Sharon Singleton)