Tomorrow: all eyes on the Indian Supreme Court

India’s highest court holds hearing on same-sex marriage.

To many, January 6th, 2023 will be the 1st anniversary of the United States Capitol attack. And yet, tomorrow could be a turning point for LGBTQ+ people globally as the Indian Supreme Court starts hearing arguments on the recognition of same-sex marriage in India under the Special Marriage Act, of 1954.

India has the most significant #LGBTQ+ population in the World: probably close to 80 million people. A decision by the Supreme Court in favor of same-sex marriage, only 4 years after decriminalizing same-sex relationships, would be nothing less than seismic and a landmark with global ripple effects. Perhaps an even more important development than decriminalization.

Three forces are at play: i) a very supportive Chief Justice, ii) a conservative Government; and iii) a rather uninformed public opinion.

The nine-judge bench is led by the new Chief Justice D. Y. Chandrachu who was on the Supreme Court in 2018 when it decriminalized homosexuality between consenting adults and recognized sexual autonomy as a basic right of individuals. Many believe Chandrachu sees LGBTQ+ equality as his legacy and he has spoken favorably on the issue before.

The party in power, the BJP, seems to be more focused on Hindu nationalism than social issues such as LGBTQ+ equality despite having voiced opposition to same-sex marriage.

As for the public, it is not aware of the case. In 2019, Pew reported that only 37% of Indians believed “homosexuality should be accepted by society” compared to 72% in the US or 86% in France. Anti-homosexual attitudes have probably changed positively with decriminalization but might remain above 50%.

Whatever the outcome is, the fact that a hearing is taking place is already an incredible development. Similarly, we can be confident that the tide within Indian society on LGBTQ+ equality is turning. It should be a powerful reminder to all those hoping to reverse LGBTQ+ equality gains from the United States to China that it is a lost battle.

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