Getting married on July 2 this year was a ‘happy coincidence’ for this gay couple as it marked the 20th anniversary of India’s first rainbow pride — Friendship Walk ’99 that began a new journey of visibility for the LGBTQ community and the 10th anniversary of the historic Delhi HC judgment that struck down Section 377.
Mumbai-based 48-year-old Nitin Karani was among the 15 gay men who participated in India’s first friendship walk held in Kolkata. While holidaying in New York, Karani decided to make his relationship with Bengaluru-based 34-year-old Thomas Joseph legal. They exchanged wedding vows on July 2 in the presence of a few relatives and friends.
Karani decided to make his relationship with Bengaluru-based 34-year-old Thomas Joseph legal and on July 2 exchanged wedding vows, in the presence of a few relatives and friends.
“Our wedding date is such a happy coincidence,” Karani told The Indian Express, adding that they were also able to pay tributes to the pioneers of the gay rights movement by participating in the 50th-anniversary celebrations of the Stonewall uprising. On June 28, 1969, Stonewall riots in New York’s Greenvich village served as the catalyst for the modern gay rights movement. Being together in the pride parade celebrations organised by the LGBTQ community here in New York was equally a momentous occasion for us,” Karani said.
Karani, who edited Bombay Dost — India’s first gay magazine, has also been involved in policy-related issues with Pune-based Samapathik trust that works towards the welfare of men having sex with men. “Thomas and I have been open about our relationship and I am hoping that at some point we can get Indian authorities to recognise same-sex marriages whether performed in India or abroad,” Karani said.
A sentiment that is being echoed by several gay couples, who have tied the knot outside the country. One such couple is 43-year-old Sameer Samudra, a management professional, who got married to 40-year-old Amit Gokhale in the US five years ago and then returned to Pune due to work commitments. “Just like any other married couple, we wanted to stay together but faced a huge problem with landlords as we disclosed our marital status. For at least seven months, it was difficult to get rented accommodation,” said Samudra. “We are married but cannot apply for a joint loan and on any important document, I have to write ‘single’ when asked about my relationship status,” Samudra added. “Just like any straight relationship, our relationships and lives are also meaningful,” Samudra said, adding that it was sad that any LGBTQ couple has to leave the country to get married.
Bindumadhav Khire, the founder of Samapathik Trust, said while gay marriages are not recognised in the country, there are several gay men and transgenders who marry according to their religious practices. “There is a desperate need in them to affirm their love for each other by exchanging vows and also feel it important for parents, relatives and friends to be a witness to the most significant event of their lives,” Khire said.
Now that Section 377 has been read down, at our NGO, we do get queries from the LGBTQ community about making the relationship legal. “While there is no legal recognition, I’m a strong votary of getting gay marriages registered through the Special Marriage Act, 1954,” said Khire. Alternately, there should be a separate civil union act for a queer couple, Khire said, adding that while the parliament was unlikely to take the bold step, they would have to knock at the doors of the Supreme Court. “Not allowing same-sex couples to marry is discriminatory,” Khire said.