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India inches closer to becoming next country to legalise same-sex marriage

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Members of the LGBTQ+ community in India stand infront of a Pride rainbow flag.

The Indian Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments in favour of same-sex marriage this week.

As part of a set of petitions issued by two same-sex couples, the New Delhi court will hear arguments for the recognition of same-sex marriage on Friday (6 January).

The lead petition, filed by gay couple Supriyo Chakraborty and Abhay Dange, has argued that denying LGBTQ+ citizens the right to marry is an affront to their right to equality.

Abhay Dange and Supriyo Chakraborty celebrate their wedding ceremony.
Abhay Dange and Supriyo Chakraborty celebrate their wedding ceremony. (Twitter/@jsuryareddy)

Currently, India does not officially recognise same-sex marriage, but allows couples to engage in an “unregistered cohabitation.”

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This effectively means that same-sex couples aren’t legally permitted to inherit assets or adopt. It can also complicate hospital visits if one-half of the couple is under strict visitation rules when hospitalised.

The petitioners have argued that, since inter-faith heterosexual couples are protected via Supreme Court rulings, then LGBTQ+ couples would naturally follow.

The second petition, filed by Parth Phiroze Mehrotra and Uday Raj, argues that barring LGBTQ+ couples from marriage equality violates several articles of the constitution.

“If the petitioners, as a same-sex couple, enjoyed access to the civil institution of marriage, they would not face untold practical difficulties, both vis-a-vis each other and their children,” the petition read.

“The denial of the fundamental right of marriage to persons like the petitioners is a complete violation of constitutional law.”

As part of the 6 January hearing, the Indian government is expected to voice its opinion on both petitions, as well as its current position on same-sex marriage.

Indian government unlikely to support same-sex marriage

Prime minister Modi’s government previously declared that same-sex couples in India “cannot claim a fundamental right for same-sex marriage” during a similar hearing in 2021.

It clarified its stance to the Delhi High Court, where it said that LGBTQ+ couples do not deserve the same rights as “traditional” heterosexual couples.

“Living together as partners and having a sexual relationship by same-sex individuals is not comparable with the Indian family unit concept of a husband, wife and children,” the government told the High Court.

While the government’s position is unlikely to change, a shift in public perception toward LGBTQ+ couples could see a victory for petitioners in a similar fashion to the decriminalisation of same-sex relationships in 2018.

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