Indian gay couple who had a stunning temple wedding launch gruelling fight to have marriage legally recognised

Kerala couple

A gay couple is petitioning to the Kerala High Court, arguing that a ban on same-sex marriage is illegal and unconstitutional.

The Indian state, which lies on the country’s Malabar Coast, is one of the most progressive when it comes to LGBT+ rights. Gay sex only became legal in India in 2018, but Kerala has held its Queer Pride event, Queerala, since 2009.

When India’s Supreme Court legally recognised trans people for the first time, Kerala was the first state to follow up on the ruling, introducing a policy in 2015 to protect transgender people from discrimination.

Same-sex couple Nikesh and Sonu held a wedding in a temple in 2019 and exchanged rings, and they are now fighting to have their marriage legally recognised.

Queer Pride Kerala

The eighth annual Queer Pride in Kerala, 2017. (Prathyash Vipanchika/ Queerala)

According to the Indian site The News Minute, their petition to the Kerala High Court argues that the description of marriage as being between a man and a woman in India’s Special Marriage Act, 1954, is discriminatory and therefore illegal because it violates India’s constitution.

The petition reads: “The institution of marriage affords certain rights and privileges to the persons in matrimony in the society and due to the aforesaid exclusion, homosexual couples like the petitioners are denied an opportunity to enjoy similar rights and privileges.”

Examples given in the document include nominating each other in insurance and pension paperwork, the right to inheritance and the right to joint bank accounts.

“All these are unavailable to the petitioners due to their exclusion from the institution of marriage, making the said exclusion more discriminatory,” it continues.

“The petitioners’ right to expression of love in the form that they aspire to conduct will be meaningless if their marital union is not recognised by law.

“Expression of love, growth of one’s personality within a relationship and development of an identity of a union will be incomplete if the law refuses to recognise same-sex marriages.”

Nikesh and Sonu asked the High Court to declare that same-sex couples can legally marry, but have not yet received a response.