Going through courts will only harden extremist viewpoints on same-sex spouses. There needs to be a public debate
When the Supreme Court struck down the penal provisions of Section 377 that criminalised all but vaginal intercourse, it effectively removed the legal persecution of homosexual relationships. Now a group of petitioners has approached the Supreme Court asking that it mandates that same-sex marriage be legalised in India. Surprisingly, for some in the LGBTQ community, this petition is being led by Right-wing agent provocateur Abhijit Iyer-Mitra, who has identified himself as a homosexual for many years. Yet the Solicitor-General (SG) of India Tushar Mehta, arguing before the Division Bench, has toed the cultural line that our values will not allow us to recognise same-sex marriage.
Make no mistake, a same-sex marriage has been a contentious and highly debated issue for many years in many parts of the world. In Australia, the debate ran for years until a much-publicised direct referendum approved it and allowed lawmakers to legislate to that effect. This newspaper feels that same-sex marriages should ideally be first debated in the public sphere and then in Parliament because any changes to laws governing marriage would have to be effected in the legislature, not in courts. That will take a certain amount of time and that will allow for the hardest views against such a move to soften as happened in the US. Going through the courts will only harden the viewpoints of religious and social extremists of every hue. The signature of a judge does not do away with centuries of discrimination and hate, which are very often wrapped up in what we call “values.” This is why the view of the SG is disappointing, and ideally he should have argued that this is something for Parliament to discuss and the time is right for the discussion to start. Anyone who understands the legislative process knows that such a major change will take time but unless a process is started, no change can ever take place. Is the time right for India to start discussing how to legalise same-sex marriage? Yes, it is. And we should have no pretence that our values do not allow such things. The law should not discriminate against same-sex marriages and the shared rights of partners. And like in most other nations where same-sex marriage is now legal, the happiest people are always the divorce lawyers, because same-sex marriage means same-sex divorce as well.