In a historic ruling on Tuesday, Oct. 17, India’s Supreme Court announced that it cannot grant marital rights to same-sex couples, including benefits such as adoption, insurance and inheritance.
The Chief Justice of India and four other justices, after hearing 21 petitions between April and May 2023, made the decision to decline appeals to legalize same-sex marriages, stating that the responsibility to legislate on this matter falls under the country’s parliament.
Ultimately, it came as a 3:2 majority verdict to reject changes to adoption and civil union laws, according to the BBC.
However, the Chief Justice argued that the government should ensure that benefits enjoyed by heterosexual couples should also extend to unmarried same-sex couples in a union.
The court instead approved a government proposal to establish a committee to review laws that currently deny the LGBTQ community “compensatory benefits or social welfare entitlements”, according to CNN.
The highly anticipated verdict was broadcast live across India, with activists gathering outside the Supreme Court in New Delhi during the ruling.
While some don’t consider this a step backward for LGBTQ rights, many expressed dissatisfaction, saying that the inability to be legally wed is a violation of their constitutional rights.
Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s ruling government has openly opposed calls to legalize same-sex unions, calling them “urban elitist views”.
The verdict comes five years India struck down a colonial era law that made gay sex illegal.
In Asia, only Taiwan and Nepal have legalized same-sex unions in 2019 and July 2023 respectively.