Oral arguments concluded Thursday, May 11, in the Indian Supreme Court case that could codify marriage equality for same-sex couples. Arguments began on April 18, garnering international media coverage and attention from LGBTQ+ rights activists worldwide. The five-judge court panel concluded the session by reserving their verdict on the marriage equality petition. In anticipation of the Indian Supreme Court’s upcoming judgment, here’s a recap of what you need to know about the arguments.

The defense’s argument

Over the course of ten days of arguments, the conservative defense, led by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, the country’s second-highest legal official, supported the position of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who vehemently opposes same-sex marriage. Mehta began the hearings by calling into question the court’s jurisdiction over the issue, arguing, to no avail, that the future of same-sex marriage in India should instead be decided in Parliament.

As the hearings went on, the crux of the defense’s argument became about the bureaucratic overhaul required to enact such a change as legally enshrining protections for same-sex marriage. Mehta emphasized the 160 laws that would be impacted in the process of bringing marriage equality to the nation, citing this as a reason to withhold marriage equality altogether. In an all-too-familiar slippery-slope argument, Mehta also pointed to the concept of a future in which freedom of sexual orientation and autonomy could be raised to challenge the prohibition of incest.

The defense concluded its arguments by informing the court that it had received responses from seven states on the petitioners’ plea seeking legal recognition for same-sex marriages, with four states opposed and three seeking more time to consider, and offered a compromise of civil union as an option for same-sex couples wishing to marry.

The petitioners’ argument

The petitioners primarily seek recognition under the Special Marriage Act (SMA), citing provisions under the Indian Constitution, United Nations Human Rights Declaration, and the right against discrimination, using a variety of international laws and equality standards to bolster their case.

A large portion of the petitioners’ argument rests on the legal protections afforded to married couples. As we’ve seen time and again with marriage equality cases around the world, it is not merely a matter of being seen as equals; it is also a matter of maintaining equal rights when it comes to financial decisions, medical emergencies, family planning, property maintenance and so much more. The fight for marriage equality is not solely a fight for the right to love, but a fight for the right to love equally, without systemic barriers to legal, medical, financial or familial protections.

On the final day of arguments, Senior Advocate AM Singhvi told the bench that the defense’s proffered solution of civil union is not an acceptable outcome. Singhvi emphasizes that civil unions are, inherently, not an equal alternative and “do not address constitutional anomalies presented by excluding non-heterosexual couples from the institution of marriage.” Further, the plaintiffs say that this exclusion enforces a cultural narrative and legal system in which it is acceptable to discriminate against same-sex couples.

If the court rules in favor of the plaintiffs, India would become the 35th country to codify legal protections for same-sex marriage. The ruling date has not yet been announced, but we’ll be keeping a close eye on the latest updates. The Equally Wed heart is a trademark of Palladino Publishing, LLC.

Stay updated on marriage equality news by joining our mailing list and following us on Instagram and TikTok.

Wanna chat about this news? Drop a comment below or join us in our private Facebook group.

Featured image by Sasarin Pamai