India’s supreme court won’t legalise same-sex marriage

India's Supreme Court has rejected a push to legalise same-sex marriage.
India same-sex marriage

India’s Supreme Court has rejected a push to legalise same-sex marriage.

The court said “laws governing marriage” are the responsibility of India’s Parliament, but added that governments have an obligation to recognise same-sex unions and “grant them benefit under law”.

The Government in India has long opposed same-sex marriage.


LGBTQIA+ activists and organisations petitioned the Supreme Court earlier this year to allow same-sex marriage and same-sex adoption.

They argued that the current laws in India are unconstitutional and discriminatory, and therefore in breach of human rights.

“LGBTQIA+ citizens are entitled to all rights available to Indian citizens,” Geetha Luthra, a legal representative for the case, said.

Why did it fail?

The proposal called for an amendment to include same-sex marriage in India’s Special Marriage Act.

The Court voted in favour of constitutional protections for same-sex relationships but rejected same-sex marriage, which it described as a “legislative matter”.

Two justices voted for civil unions to legally recognise same-sex relationships. However, this was opposed by the three other justices.

Adoption rights

Same-sex couples in India cannot adopt a child together.

LGBTQIA+ activists pushed for adoption rights in the court case, but the proposal failed, with three judges voting against it.

Justice DY Chandrachud voted in favour of adoption reform and said the law “cannot make the assumption that only heterosexual [people] are good parents”.

Trans rights

In its ruling, the Supreme Court voted to allow trans people to marry a person of the opposite sex. However same-sex transgender couples cannot marry, or adopt in India.

This comes after India enacted the Transgender Persons Act in November 2019 to provide better protections and rights for trans people.

What’s next?

The court acknowledged a duty to ensure LGBTQIA+ people are not discriminated against.

The bench agreed on a committee to be formed to improve the rights of the queer community in India.

However, there is no legal obligation for the government to follow the committee’s directions.

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