LGBTQ community fight for acceptance, hails plea to legalise same-sex marriage

Kerala's gay, lesbian communities hail plea to legalise same sex marriage
Nikesh P P and Sonu M S, the first married gay couple in Kerala, have moved the High Court with a plea to register their marriage under the Special Marriage Act, 1954.

Kochi: A petition filed by a gay couple in the Kerala High Court, seeking legalisation of same sex marriage, has further charged up the community's fight for more visibility and social acceptance.

Nikesh P P and Sonu M S, the first married gay couple in Kerala, have moved the High Court with a plea to register their marriage under the Special Marriage Act, 1954.

The petitioners have pointed out that the Special Marriage Act, 1954 permits only heterosexual couple (opposite sex) to get married and denies homosexual couple like them equal access to the institution of marriage.

The court has asked the state and central governments to file their views on the issue within two weeks.

Sonu and Nikesh decided to move the court after their attempts to register their marriage went in vain. “We got married on July 5, 2018. After that we consulted a few government officials seeking the possibilities of registering our marriage. But we were turned away,” Nikesh told Onmanorama on Tuesday. The couple lives at Kakkanad in Kochi.

Nikesh said homosexual couples too deserve the rights of heterosexual couple. “Now, we can't open a joint bank account. Whenever we fill a form, we are forced to identify ourselves as 'single'. We also cannot handle an insurance policy as a couple,” Nikesh said.

Nikesh exuded confidence that the court will rule in favour of them as truth is on their side. “If a favourable verdict is delivered, it will be for the entire LGBTQ community in the country. It would reduce to a great extent the discrimination we face at every field of life,” he said.

“The institution of marriage affords certain rights and privileges to the persons in matrimony in the society and due to the aforesaid exclusion, the homosexual couples like the petitioners are denied an opportunity to enjoy similar rights and privileges. Being married carries along with it the right to maintenance, right of inheritance, a right to own joint bank accounts, lockers; nominate each other as nominee in insurance, pension, gratuity papers etc. All these are unavailable to the petitioners due to their exclusion from the institution of marriage, making the said exclusion more discriminatory,” the petition read.

Community welcomes move

Prijith P K, a gay rights activist who is the president of Queerythm, said it is high time the law permitted same-sex couples to get married. “The Indian law has acknowledged the existence of LGBTQ people but is silent about their rights,” he said, adding that many people in the community wish that same-sex marriage is legalised.

“We can prove our existence only if there's legal recognition,” he said.

Sindhya Saji, a lesbian living with her partner Vidya at her home in Thiruvananthapuram, also welcomed the petition. She said marriage will get them legal protection.

Kerala's gay, lesbian communities hail plea to legalise same sex marriage
Sindhya Saji, a lesbian living with her partner Vidya at her home in Thiruvananthapuram, also welcomed the petition.

The 27-year-old woman said she and her 22-year-old partner have decided to wait for a couple of years to get married.

Abhijith and his partner, who have been living together, said they are waiting for same-sex marriage to be legalised. “We are not in a hurry to get married. We need to settle first,” he said.

Abhijith hailed Nikesh and Sonu's petition as a stepping stone towards more visibility and social acceptance. He said in “virtual marriages” couples are deprived of legal rights.

Heterosexual law

Abhijith
Abhijith

Sonu and Nikesh in their petition pointed out that the very choice of words in certain provisions of the Special Marriage Act, 1954 are in favour of only heterosexual couples and unconstitutional.

“The impugned provisions operate in favour of heterosexual couples only because of the usage or constructions like ‘widow-widower’, ‘male- female’ and ‘bride-bridegroom’. This is an exclusion of homosexual couples from the ambit of the Act. The petitioners plead that such exclusion, even if not by express words but by implied intention, amounts to discrimination and thus is illegal and unconstitutional to that extent. Petitioners submitted that the impugned provisions, to the extent that it portrays a heterosexual undertone, must be held unconstitutional and thus be struck or read down to that extent of illegality,” the petition read.

'Inspiring petition'

LGBTQ activist Jijo Kuriakose called the petition “inspiring”. He said he hoped that the HC would give a favourable order mandating amendment of the Special Marriage Act.

Around 30 countries, mostly in Europe and the Americas, have so far legalised same-sex marriage. Northern Ireland, Ecuador, Taiwan and Austria granted same-sex couples to get married last year.