Marriages can only happen between opposite genders, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh said on Tuesday while backing the Union government’s stand on the matter before the Supreme Court, reported The Indian Express.

“In our culture and thought, marriage is not only for enjoyment, but is an institution,” said RSS General Secretary Dattatreya Hosabale at an event in Haryana’s Samalkha town. “It is not merely a union of two people. It is for the benefit of the family and society at large. It is not for physical and sexual enjoyment. That is the Hindu culture.”

Several petitions had been filed in various High Courts seeking legal recognitions of same-sex marriages. In January, the Supreme Court transferred these petitions to itself and sought the Centre’s response.

In its affidavit made public on Sunday, the government had opposed the petitions, saying that same-sex marriages are “not comparable with the Indian family unit concept”. A day later, the court referred the petitions to a five-judge Constitution bench, stating that the matter is of “seminal importance”.

While the RSS, which is the parent organisation and the ideological backbone of the Bharatiya Janata Party, has opposed same-sex marriages, it has spoken in favour of members of the LGBTQ community.

In 2016, Hosabale had supported the decriminalisation of homosexuality but expressed reservations about granting marital rights to the LGBTQ community.

In January this year, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat had said that members of the LGBTQ community and transgender persons have the same right to live as others.

The BJP has consistently opposed same-sex marriages in courts, saying they are not part of “Indian culture or law” and that such relationships could not be compared to an “Indian family unit”.

Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju on Tuesday said that marriage is an institution guided by laws enacted by Parliament, which reflects the will of the people, reported PTI.

At a conclave held by Lokmat newspaper, Rijiju said that the government is not opposed to any activity by citizens as long as they follow the law of the land.

“The only issue with the government is marriage is an institution, it has sanctity and it must be backed by law which takes into account our traditions, our ethos, our heritage – there are so many things in our country,” he added.

The law minister said that courts can look into some issues that need clarity in terms of interpretation, adding that the government does not have any problem with it.

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All you need to know about the same-sex marriage petitions before the Supreme Court

Pleas before Supreme Court

There are 19 petitions before the Supreme Court of India challenging various laws relating to heterosexual marriages. The petitioners include several same-sex couples who have not been able to get their marriages solemnised due to the current legal framework.

The crux of the petitioners’ case is that certain laws, such as the Hindu Marriage Act and the Special Marriage Act, prescribe that a marriage has to be between a man and a woman, therefore excluding same-sex couples.

While some laws, such as the Foreign Marriage Act, which regulates the marriage of Indian citizens outside India, do not actively prohibit marriages between same-sex couples, officials have refused to register such marriages.

This, the petitioners have submitted, infringes a person’s fundamental right against discrimination, which is guaranteed under Articles 14 and 15 of the Indian Constitution. It also violates their right to freedom of expression under Article 19 and their right to privacy and dignity under Article 21.