Moments after the US Supreme Court legalised same-sex marriages across the country, Anosh Kapahi updated his Facebook page. His profile picture now has two handsome men dressed in suits smiling for the camera. The cover picture has them sporting garlands over sherwanis.

“Until now, I was reluctant to put up our wedding photos because there were so many of our gay and lesbian friends who wanted to get married but couldn’t because it was illegal in their states,” said Kapahi, who lives in Washington DC, where he married his partner in 2013 soon after the Defense of Marriage Act was struck down.  "I had to be sensitive towards them."

Kapahi, a Mumbai boy, was 25 when he moved to the US in 2002 to do a PhD. He was just beginning to feel comfortable about his sexuality in a new country when the constant teasing by Indian roommates pushed him further into the closet. Four years later, however, encouraged by a newfound partner, he came out to his mother. Though she was initially apprehensive, she came around when she saw how happy her son was. Kapahi said that the decision to finally get married came out of a need to protect his relationship.

“There were stories of binational gay couples getting deported," he said. "We were worried and decided to take the big step.” His partner is of Indian origin, born and raised in Texas. Their wedding was a three-day affair, complete with a sangeet, Hindu rituals and cocktails.

A tinge of brown

America erupted in celebrations on Friday after the historic ruling marked a step forward in the struggle towards LGBT equality. And in the rainbow over Pride weekend were clear shades of brown. The verdict was especially significant for members of the Indian diaspora who had left the country to escape the clutches of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalises homosexuality.

Among them was 25-year-old Harini Gupte, who ostensibly left home in Mumbai for Los Angeles two months ago to pursue a master’s degree in media studies. The real reason, however, was that she wanted to move in with her lesbian partner, Mona Fernandes. Both of them discreetly joined in the revelry.

“Getting married is not a distant dream any more,” said an elated Gupte.

Apart from being able to celebrate their love in a socially acceptable way, marriage also means that same-sex couples will be entitled to equal treatment under federal law with regard to, for example, income taxes, housing, medical and Social Security benefits. It also means that an Indian LGBT person marrying an American can file to be an immigrant. Among the most important things for transnational queer couples is the absence of a looming fear of losing each other. “Now, there is at least a way to protect our relationship in case I don’t get a job after I graduate,” said Gupte.

Meanwhile, at home...

According to data released in 2013 by the Pew Research Centre, 71,165 same-sex marriages took place legally in America, based on figures from eight of the nine states which permitted them at the time. It is impossible to estimate how many Indians were among them.

Amidst the joyous clamour in the US, though the Indian LGBT community is waiting for the rainbow to shine in the homeland. “This will give my parents the exposure they really need and help me in coming out to them,” said Anshul Mathur who moved to the US in 2006. Today, memories of being bullied at school for being effeminate do not trouble him so much as he has managed to gain acceptance and appreciation for the person he is. He said he would come out to his parents only when he is in a stable relationship. “Right now, I am too busy trying to advance my career as a scientist,” he said.

Some names have been changed to protect identities.