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Do Beliefs Matter More Than Rights? Recognizing Same-Sex Marriage In The Present Times

'Love is love'. As people fight toward ensuring same sex marriages, homosexuality is still considered as a crime in many societies. This article tries to establish various beliefs and thoughts of societies on the debate around gay marriages. It also tries to analyze various questions around the globe on the legalization of same sex marriage and establishment of marriage equality.

It explains the importance of normalisation of homosexuality and recognition and acceptance of same sex marriage by the society in the life of LGBTQ community. This article establishes the importance of marriage in the life of individuals and how legalization of the same will ensure equal rights and a dignified life for the LGBTQ community.

Homosexuality is Natural

Homosexuality is neither a sin nor a mental sickness. Since the 1950's, when it was scientifically proven by Evelyn Hooker that homosexuality is natural and not a mental sickness to the present times, where it has been decriminalized in many countries, homosexuality is still considered a taboo and is not accepted by many. The Indian Psychiatric society also stated in June 2018 that homosexuality is not a disease and cannot be changed through conversion therapy or external attempts.

The Madras High Court on June 7 also called for a ban on conversion therapy and legal action against its practitioners in the case of S. Sushma vs. Commissioner of Police. On the other side of these welcoming decisions, the question of marriage equality for homosexuals is still unanswered. The contested debate around same-sex marriage is in the momentum as it upholds the dignity and rights of LGBTQ community legally as well as morally. From a long time, LGBTQ community has faced discrimination across every country in all spheres of life and it is high time that their identity as well as basic rights be recognised.

You can love but not marry

September 6 ,2018 was a historic day for the LGBTQ community in India as Supreme Court in its judgement decriminalized homosexuality in a very beautiful way by using words of Goethe's such as 'I am what I am' and Leonard Cohen's 'Democracy is coming'. But the question of social acceptance around gay-marriage by society and courts is still unanswered. Three years after the judgement, there has been a little change in the attitude of society towards homosexuality and same sex marriage.

There is conservatism around it as marriage is a socially recognized institution which confers certain statutory rights and obligations on the married couple. Marriage is not a private concept, it has a sanctity attached to it and according to the social conservatives, heteronormative marriage ensures the formation of stable families and ensures that the children are brought up in the most natural way.

Usually, the arguments against same sex marriage lies upon the religious beliefs and political conservatism. Religions around the world like Christianity opposes it on the basis of Biblical passages whereas Islam considers homosexuality as a crime and Hinduism condemns it stating it to be unnatural. Recently, the Indian Government urged the Delhi High Court to adjourn the petitions related to same-sex marriage and refused to recognize it under personal laws. It also added that decriminalizing section 377 does not imply legitimizing a particular human conduct and 'nobody is dying because of the lack of marriage registration'. Such remarks prove that homosexuality is still not considered 'normal' by the Indian society nor by the government.

Global Stance on same-sex marriage

National acceptability becomes an important factor while discussing legalization of same-sex marriages. Sensitization around homosexuality, progressive beliefs, acceptance and understanding by society all comes into play when marriage equality is ensured. The global stance on this issue shows the effect of societal values, beliefs and religion as only 29 countries till now have given legal recognition to same sex marriage with Netherlands being the first one to do so.

The recognition has been provided either by the means of legislation or through court decisions. Breaking barriers and accepting new ideas and beliefs has always been tough for any society, culture or government. Recently, in the Gallup's survey, support for same sex marriage in United States recorded a higher acceptance rate of 70%, 10 % increase from 2015 when U.S Supreme court legalized same sex marriage and ruled that it must be recognized by all states.

A small fraction of Republicans have also shown support for gay marriage in recent Gallup's survey reaching up to 55% which shows the changing attitudes of conservative Americans towards homosexuality. The battle for legalizing same-sex marriage and ensuring marriage equality for homosexuals is on the rise in many countries such as Japan, Philippines, Chile and Thailand. One of the district courts in Japan ruled in its landmark decision that the failure to recognize same-sex marriage violates the right to equality and is 'unconstitutional'. As the world celebrates pride month this June,2021, the questions around importance of legalizing same-sex marriage still pertains.

Why is it so important to legalize same-sex marriage?

Marriage plays a very important role in the life of two individuals who love each other as it gives many basic rights such as adoption rights, inheritance rights, property rights, medical rights, insurance rights and so on to the couple. In the context of India, there is no law which recognizes same sex marriage thus it deprives the LGBTQ community their civil rights necessary to enjoy life as married couples.

The homosexual couples suffer discrimination on many fronts as their marriage has no legitimacy in the eyes of law and hence cannot enjoy basic rights such as opening a joint bank account, nominating spouse for insurance and registering themselves as an emergency contact etc. some of the aspects taken for granted by the heterosexual couples.

Decriminalizing section 377 was a historic step that has helped the LGBTQ community in many ways such as in coming out and expressing themselves freely, however the right to marriage still remains a far-fetched dream in the Indian society. One of the major reasons as to why homosexuality is not considered 'normal' in the Indian society is because it lacks a stamp of marriage. Marriage equality is very important as it will bring homosexual and heterosexual couples on the same page leaving behind discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and legalizing it will ensure a higher tolerance and acceptance in India. But is India ready for same sex marriage?

According to a survey in 2019, only 24 % people i.e., one out of four persons accept same sex marriages in India. Many of the LGBTQ people face discrimination and violence from their family members and have to flee from their homes due to continuous threats and danger. Many find it difficult to come out in their traditional and conservative families due to lack of acceptance and fear of societal norms.

The taboo around homosexuality, lack of societal acceptance, lack of open conversations and fear of getting bashed from society are some of the reasons which shows that many battles are needed to be won in order to ensure equality for homosexuals and legalization of same sex marriage is one of them. One of the petitioners demanding same sex marriage in Delhi High Court says that they do not expect society to accept gay marriage immediately, even a little tolerance and openness towards it is enough for them.

However, is it justified to deprive an individual of his basic right to marry on the basis of societal values and beliefs? Is it justified to discriminate against an individual on the basis of his/her/their gender identity and sexual orientation? Article 21 of our constitution guarantees right to life and personal liberty to all the citizens of India. Hence, it is unjust and strictly against the gist of our constitution to deprive LGBTQ community their right to marry and choose a partner of their own choice.

Strict adherence to conservative beliefs and practices has to be shed out in order to adapt to the changing world and accept people with different identities, colours and shades. We have to remember that beliefs, faiths, customs, culture are made for filling colours and happiness into the lives of people and the same must not be used to deprive people of their happiness, their right to love, marry and lead a dignified life.

The battle for same sex marriage is still ongoing in India and in many parts of the world. The Indian society and government reeks of homophobia and the need of the hour is to have open conversations about homosexuality. Change is the law of nature and old age customs and beliefs have to be changed to provide basic rights and a dignified life to the LGBTQ community. Giving legal recognition to same-sex marriage does not hampers the rights of heterosexuals, it does not undermine the concept of family rather it provides an extension to it. India achieved a milestone by accepting consensual gay sex but the battle must continue till it becomes pride, not prejudice.

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