Supreme Court Rejects Recognition of Same-Sex Marriages
In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court has reinforced the fundamental right of individuals to enter into a union without discrimination based on sexual orientation. While stopping short of legalizing marriage equality, the Court emphasized the need for the Centre to take action and address the practical concerns faced by same-sex couples. This decision followed a series of judgments by a five-judge bench, with notable differences emerging on the question of adoption rights for queer couples.
Key Issues Raised in the Judgments
Chief Justice of India, DY Chandrachud, and Justice SK Kaul stood in recognition of the right of queer couples to adopt, while Justice S Ravindra Bhat, Justice PS Narasimha, and Justice Hima Kohli held a dissenting opinion. The bench’s decision spurred the formulation of a committee by the Centre to address various issues encountered by same-sex couples, such as acquiring ration cards, pensions, gratuities, and handling succession matters.
Speaking on the right to choose a life partner, Chief Justice Chandrachud underscored its significance in the context of an individual’s life course. He emphasized that this right is deeply rooted in the constitutional guarantee of the right to life and liberty under Article 21. Stressing the importance of recognizing unions and the potential discrimination that may arise against queer couples without such recognition, the Chief Justice highlighted that the basis of sexual orientation should not restrict the right to enter into a union.
Refuting the notion that marriage equality is solely an urban or elite concept, the Chief Justice emphasized that queerness transcends class or geographical boundaries. He underscored that homosexuality and queerness are not confined to urban regions or specific social classes.
Regarding adoption rights for queer couples, the Chief Justice disputed the idea that only heterosexual couples can provide stability to a child. He pointed out the lack of evidence indicating that only a married heterosexual couple can offer a stable environment for a child. Additionally, the Chief Justice criticized the Central Adoption Resource Authority for exceeding its authority by prohibiting adoption by same-sex couples.
Justice Kaul echoed the need for an anti-discrimination law and acknowledged the historical recognition of same-sex relationships, emphasizing their emotional significance beyond mere sexual activities. Supporting the Chief Justice’s standpoint, Justice Kaul stressed the Court’s duty to uphold constitutional morality rather than social morality.
On the other hand, Justice Bhat, while acknowledging that queerness is not limited to urban or elitist contexts, expressed disagreement with the Chief Justice’s directions. He highlighted the limitations faced by the court in creating a legal framework for queer couples, emphasizing the legislature’s responsibility in addressing the various considerations involved.
The Verdict and Limitations
Amid discussions on the Special Marriage Act, the judges collectively agreed that the court should refrain from amending the Act as it falls within the legislative domain. Both the Chief Justice and Justice Kaul highlighted the interpretative limitations associated with incorporating homosexual unions into the Special Marriage Act. They acknowledged the potential cascading effects that might arise from tinkering with the Act.
While the judgments recognized the importance of addressing discrimination against queer couples and ensuring the well-being of children in need of stable homes, the Court highlighted the constraints it faced in intervening beyond its prescribed role.
The Road Ahead: Centre’s Role and Legislative Responsibility
With the Supreme Court’s decision to delegate the matter to the Centre, the focus now shifts to the government’s response and its commitment to addressing the practical issues faced by same-sex couples. The formation of a committee to tackle the various administrative challenges encountered by these couples signals a step forward in recognizing and accommodating the needs of the LGBTQ+ community.
Moving forward, it is imperative for the legislature to take a proactive stance and consider the rights and well-being of queer couples and their families. Crafting comprehensive and inclusive legislation that accounts for the complexities of same-sex unions while safeguarding the best interests of all parties involved remains a critical objective for the authorities. As the debate continues, it is essential to ensure that the spirit of equality and non-discrimination guides the formulation of future legal frameworks, ultimately fostering a more inclusive and just society for all.