Expand the age-old custom of marriage

Responding to a suite of petitions to legalise same-sex marriage, Delhi High Court has adjourned the plea. GoI, which sought an adjournment on the ground of being busy with more pressing matters of Covid mitigation, could have been more sensitive. Instead, it stated, ‘nobody is dying because they don’t have a marriage certificate’. In February, the Centre opposed same-sex marriage by stating that marriage is based on ‘age-old customs… cultural ethos and societal values’, adding that even though Supreme Court‘s scrapping of Section 377 of IPC in 2018 decriminalised ‘a particular human behaviour’, it neither ‘intended to, nor did in fact, legitimise the human conduct in question’. Clearly, sensitivity not being GoI‘s suite in this matter, it is best to stick to law.

For one, marriage is a construct based on societal values that is sought to be expanded to include all Indian adults, not just heterosexuals. On a more practical level, being denied rights provided to ‘spouses’ despite being partners – a relationship beyond sexual, or ‘a particular human behaviour’ – violates Articles 14 (equality and equal protection), 15 (prohibition of discrimination), 19 (individual rights), and 21 (personal liberty) of the Constitution. So, expand the laws of the country by changing equality ‘irrespective of gender’ to ‘irrespective of gender and sexual orientation’.

Without the facilitation of a marriage certificate, hurdles faced by couples in matters – ranging from decisions only a spouse can take in a hospital, to inheritance and opening a joint bank account – become full-blown barriers. It is to remove these barriers that same-sex couples should have the right to marry. Let an ‘age-old custom’ be allowed to expand its reach, and prevail.

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