The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to legalise same-sex marriages in India, saying that amending the law was the job of the legislature.
A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud delivered its verdict in response to a batch of pleas seeking legal recognition for same-sex marriages. The bench, which also included Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, S Ravindra Bhat, Hima Kohli and PS Narasimha, delivered four separate judgements.
The court endorsed a government proposal to form a committee to consider bestowing certain rights and benefits to same-sex couples.
Here are the top quotes from the SC order:
- In his verdict, Justice Chandrachud said that homosexuality or queerness is not an urban concept or restricted to the upper classes of society, countering the submission made by the Union government during the hearings in the case. “People may be queer regardless of whether they are from small towns, urban or semi-urban areas,” he said. “It will be a mistake to conflate the urban with the elite.”
- It would be incorrect to say that marriage is a static and unchanging institution, Chandrachud said.
- The chief justice emphasised that LGBTQ+ people should have the right to choose their partners. “Some may regard this as the most important decision of their life,” he said. “This right goes to the root of the right to life and liberty under Article 21 [of India’s Constitution].”
- Chandrachud added that queer persons should not face discrimination under the law. “Material benefits and services flowing to heterosexual couples and denied to queer couples will be a violation of their fundamental right,” he observed.
- He also said it is discriminatory to assume that only married, heterosexual couples can provide a safe space for raising children.
- Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, the second senior-most judge on the bench, said this moment is an opportunity for the judges to “remedy the historical injustice and discrimination [against LGBTQ+ people] and thus governance is needed to grant rights to such unions or marriages”.
- Non-heterosexual and heterosexual unions must be seen as both sides of the same coin, Kaul remarked.
- Justice Bhat said that he agreed with the chief justice that queerness is neither an urban nor an elitist concept and that the judiciary cannot add words to the Special Marriage Act.
- The court, he added, cannot create a legal framework for queer couples because that is the job of Parliament. “The state cannot be obligated to recognise the bouquet of rights flowing from such a union,” he said.
- Justice Narasimha said it would not be Constitutionally permissible to allow civil unions for non-heterosexual couples.