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We have lost, yet we remain hopeful, says petitioner on same-sex marriage verdict

A five-judge bench of the Supreme Court left the matter of legalisation of queer marriage in India to the legislature.

A five-judge bench of the Supreme Court left the matter of legalisation of queer marriage in India to the legislature.

Supriya Chakraborty, along with his partner Abhay Dang, a homosexual couple who met in Hyderabad in 2012, filed a petition seeking legal recognition of their marriage on November 14 last year and appeared at the first admission hearing on November 25 the same year.

Eleven months later, responding to the final verdict, which was ruled unanimously against legalising same sex marriage on Tuesday, Mr. Supriya told The Hindu: “We are deeply disappointed by the judgment and exhausted today. Though the court has reiterated that queer people have the right to form relationships, they stopped well short of legal recognition.”

“However, we feel proud that we fought this battle. Though we have lost, we remain hopeful that one day we will have full marriage equality.  Lots of dinner-table conversations were initiated because of this case,” he added.

A five-judge bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud and comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, S. Ravindra Bhat, Hima Kohli, and P.S. Narasimha, left the matter of legalisation of queer marriage in India to the legislature.

The bench had started hearing 20 petitions filed on the matter on April 18, 2023. Following a long drawn-out hearing, all five judges concurred that there is no “fundamental right for homosexual couples to marry”, asserting that the court can neither strike down or modify the Special Marriage Act (1954) to include queer couples. The bench also ruled in a 3:2 verdict against civil unions for queer couples.

The case titled, Supriyo a.k.a Supriya Chakraborty & Abhay Dang v. Union of India thr. Its Secretary, Ministry of Law and Justice & other connected cases (2023), was a landmark hearing following the Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India (2018) verdict which struck down Section 377 and decriminalised homosexual sex. The verdict has left the queer community disheartened and disappointed, as they were expecting a nod in their favour.

“We had immense expectations from the Supreme Court after Section 377, however, they have left it to the Parliament, that is the Centre, which is invariably against our community. Even the State governments delivered polarising judgments. Marriage law isn’t just about the union of two people, it is primarily about our community being recognised within the society. We are discouraged by this judgment, this was a long fight and this verdict has brought us back to square one. However, in Hyderabad, the queer community is united in continuing this fight. We will hit the streets in protest and we will continue to speak our truth,” said Sandi, the founder of Mobbera Foundation, a Hyderabad-based queer rights non profit.

“When the Supreme Court began the hearing, there were several progressive statements being made by the CJI which raised our expectations and hinted towards a positive judgment. We all know how long it will take as it has gone to Parliament and we know what the Centre is inclined towards. But we will continue fighting, as we have for centuries,” said Jayant, the founder of Queer Nilayam in Hyderabad, who recently got engaged to his partner and was looking forward to their eventual marriage.

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