Obamas support for same-sex marriage could signal a breakthrough in the US and beyond
Earlier this week,Barack Obama became the first sitting US president to publicly affirm his support for same-sex marriage. Whether his hand was forced by Vice President Joe Biden,or his views on the issue had,as he claimed,finally evolved,or the effort was to change a storyline that was portraying him as indecisive,it was a principled yet risky stand on a deeply controversial subject,especially remarkable in an election year. Obamas historic endorsement may just be a symbolic victory he has himself said that he views it as a states rights issue but it sparked celebration among gay rights activists in the US and beyond.
Even as Obama nudges America towards a possible breakthrough,same-sex marriage,or even a civil union,remains a faraway dream in India. Gay citizens are not guaranteed even the bare minimum the legality of their sexual preference is still contested. In 2009,the Delhi High Court struck down Section 377,decriminalising homosexuality,but the Supreme Court is now hearing an appeal of that judgement. The government contradicted itself several times over the course of the hearing,before going with the health ministrys position. The health ministry favours decriminalisation,but it has framed the debate in terms of the public health challenge posed,rather than as a civil rights issue.
In India the idea of same-sex relationships is still deemed unnatural by a large section of people,whose moral anxieties have facilitated the repression of the rights of an embattled minority. The SC and the government should not find it so difficult to privilege the principle of inclusion and equality after all,it is enshrined in the Constitution.