The supreme court of India is set to deliver a verdict on Tuesday on granting legal recognition to same-sex marriages, a ruling that has the potential to spark momentous changes in the world’s most populous country.
The case is seen as a milestone event for LGBTQ+ rights in India, following a historic 2018 judgment by the supreme court that scrapped a colonial-era ban on gay sex.
Only Taiwan and Nepal allow same-sex unions in Asia, where largely conservative values still dominate politics and society.
A five-judge bench of the supreme court headed by the chief justice of India heard arguments in the case between April and May and reserved its order on 12 May.
The supreme court website showed late on Monday that the verdict was due to be pronounced on Tuesday.
Legal recognition could redefine family laws
If legal recognition is granted, the ruling will bring about significant changes in the largely conservative Indian society, as family laws may need to be redefined.
Same-sex couples in India currently face legal and social barriers in accessing inheritance, property, adoption, insurance, and other rights that are available to heterosexual couples.
The petitioners in the case have argued that the absence of legal backing for same-sex marriages violates their constitutional rights to equality, dignity, privacy, and expression.
They have also cited international human rights conventions and examples of other countries that have legalized same-sex marriages.
Government opposes urban elitist views
The Indian government has opposed these appeals, calling them “urban elitist views” and stating that the parliament is the right platform to debate the matter.
It has also said that such marriages are not “comparable with the Indian family unit concept of a husband, a wife and children”.
The government has claimed that Indian culture and traditions do not recognize same-sex relationships and that they would harm the institution of marriage and family values.
The government has also raised concerns about the impact of same-sex marriages on health, morality, and social order.
LGBTQ+ community hopes for positive outcome
Members of India’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community (LGBTQ+) say they face discrimination despite the 2018 judgment, and that legal recognition of same-sex marriages would improve their status and security.
They have expressed hope that the supreme court will uphold their rights and dignity and set a precedent for other Asian countries.
They have also said that legal recognition of same-sex marriages would help them overcome stigma, violence, and harassment from society and authorities.
They have also appealed to the public to support their cause and celebrate diversity and inclusion.