'Battle Does Not End Here': Same-Sex Marriage Petitioners on SC Verdict

The Quint spoke to four petitioners about the SC verdict and the way forward for them.

5 min read

Video Producer: Maaz Hasan

Camerperson: Shiv Kumar Maurya

Video Editor: Prajjwal Kumar

Anger, shock, disappointment, and devastation.

This was what petitioners said they were feeling when a five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud, ruled against the legalisation of same-sex marriages on Tuesday, 17 October.

"When we entered the premises of the court today, we were extremely hopeful for something significant and tangible to take place. But when we came out, we were disheartened and disappointed," Hyderabad-based Abhay Dang, who – along with his partner Supriyo Chakraborty – is among the 21 petitioners who sought marriage equality in India, told The Quint.

The apex court also ruled that it cannot read non-heterosexual couples' right to marry into existing laws, and left the codifying of a new law to the legislature.


'Disappointed To Hear Court Say Marriage Is Not A Fundamental Right'

US-based lawyer Udit Sood, another petitioner who called for the legal recognition of same-sex marriages, took an impromptu decision and hopped on a 20-hour long flight from Los Angeles to make it in time for the SC verdict on Tuesday.

"When I was flying, I was extremely optimistic. But this is disappointing to hear. The (SC) verdict has been confusing.... the CJI (DY Chandrachud) didn't go as far as we wanted him to."
Udit Sood told The Quint

Sood said that his partner Andrew and he were looking forward to the verdict as they were "excited to marry in India."

"We dreamed of spending more time in my home country, which I painfully left behind because of the inequalities queer Indians are forced to endure. Unfortunately, it looks like we’re going to have to put our plans on hold for now," Sood told The Quint.

What was more disappointing for Sood was when the court held that "marriage was not a fundamental right."

"In earlier judgments involving heterosexual couples, the court had said marriage is a fundamental right. But with queer couples before it, he (CJI) said that there is no fundamental right to marry..." Sood told The Quint.

Delhi-based businessman Uday Raj Anand, another petitioner in the case, described the verdict as "worse than expected."

"Prior to the verdict, there was a moderation of expectation and we hoped for something more concrete. But this felt worse than expected," the 36-year-old said.

'SC Reaffirmed That Queer People Are Second-Class Citizens'

Rohin Bhatt, a non-binary queer rights activist and lawyer, said that the verdict started off on a "very good note," but after the first five minutes, it felt like "a punch in the gut."

"Today, the court has reaffirmed and reaffirmed that queer people are second-class citizens no matter how many judicial platitudes say otherwise. It has become evidently clear now that we are being relegated to an executive, which is not just unsympathetic, but also apathetic – and a legislature that cannot be bothered by queer rights... We will rise in rage and protest," Bhatt told The Quint.
"It's a clear messaging that in other parts of the world, you will be treated as an equal, but in India, sorry, you have to wait. That's the message to queer kids growing up. The message is not just that. The message is: you can get married even if you are gay. All you have to do is lie to yourself, your partner, your families, and society. That is deeply disappointing," Sood told The Quint.

Is SC Verdict a Step Forward To Equal Rights? Petitioners Answer

Reading out the verdict, CJI Chandrachud stated that if the Special Marriage Act of 1954 is struck down, "it will take the country to the pre-Indpendence era ... The court is not equipped to undertake such an exercise of reading meaning into the statute."

He added that a change in the regime of the SMA is "for the Parliament to decide," and that the court must be careful not to encroach on the legislative domain.

Abhay Dang and Supriyo Chakraborty believed that the SC judgment cannot be considered as a "step forward," but Uday Raj Anand said otherwise.

"Nothing has fundamentally shifted. But yes, all the judges have expressed their sympathies for the cause. They have expressed their desire to see a legal framework given to the queer people. In that sense, they urged the govt to follow the process to create the framework."
Uday Raj Anand, a petitioner in same-sex marriage plea told The Quint

"Instead of convincing five people, need to convince over a billion people. But we are upto the fight and we will do it," he added.

Meanwhile, senior lawyer Karuna Nundy said that the apex court had some opportunities that "has been pushed off to legislators and the central govt has made their stand clear with regards to marriage."

On the steps taken by the court, Nundy said, "Trans marriages – when one person identities as a man, and another as a woman – are not recognised nationally. There was already a judgment of the Madras HC that some of us had submitted to the courts that recognised such marriages. So that is significant."

"In addition, the Chief Justice laid down protections to queer couples who are under legal threat from their family, or an FIR being registered in an unjustified manner, or are attacked by non-state actors, that the police must step in and take strong steps to protect couples. That will be extremely helpful," Nandy added.

Udit Sood, however, was skeptical about this.

"We have to read the specific directions and the judgment to really understand this. It could be that there's just an expectation (by the court) that the government constituted the committee to look into the matter in good faith. But there is no mention of any deadline on when committee will issue its findings... I'm not putting high hopes on that particular part," Sood told The Quint.

'But the Battle Does Not End...'

The four petitioners, however, have not given up hope.

"I was disheartened when I realised we are not getting what we asked for. But after few moments, I realised, the battle does not end here. We need to keep pushing, we need to keep fighting for our own rights. There is a sense of perseverance required right now…I'm filled with it. That's my takeaway from today's verdict," Supriyo Chakraborty said.

When asked what the next step was for the petitioners, Uday Raj Anand told The Quint, "It's too soon what the next step looks like... Now is not the time for despondency. Now is the time we say we are individuals with rights, loving families, and a desire to live as equal citizens. We must take this conversation to as many people as we can and bend the opinion towards us. That's the only wait out."

Sood said that it was time to reassess and regroup for a better future.

"The community should first take a step back and deal with this. Just as we have done for decades. This is not a new fight. We need to assess where we stand. We have options available to reconsider some of its (SC's verdict) finding. We know very little. We need to read the judgment. We need to regroup, figure out our way forward," he told The Quint.

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Topics:  Same-sex marriage 

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