Updated: June 30, 2015 12:00:04 am
As of last Friday, same-sex marriage is legal in the US. Its Supreme Court, in a landmark 5-4 ruling, extended the right to marriage — according to Justice Anthony Kennedy’s eloquent majority opinion, a union that “embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family” — to all gay and lesbian Americans. The judgment carried a patina of inevitability, given how rapidly and decisively public opinion on marriage equality has shifted in the US. But it was also, as acknowledged by President Barack Obama, “a thunderbolt” of justice made possible only after the dogged persistence of the LGBTQ community through decades of setbacks, challenges and a few small victories.
Of course, the fight for gay rights in America is far from over. Even as thousands celebrated pride and the rainbow filters took over Facebook, a note of caution was sounded: despite the ruling, gays and lesbians will find it difficult to assert their fundamental right to marry in many states. And, in spite of having won this important right, anti-gay discrimination can continue to flourish in rental markets and workplaces, because no federal law prohibits it. This was a historic judgment. But there is still some distance to travel before all laws that “abridge central precepts of equality”, as Kennedy wrote, are struck down.
Sadly, the Indian Supreme Court in December 2013 abdicated its role as the protector of minority rights to deny India’s gays and lesbians the dignity of a legal intimate life. It claimed that the atrocious Section 377 did not contravene the fundamental right to life, and left it to Parliament to repeal this draconian law. Yet, the same court provided the legislature the direction to recognise transgender individuals and extend to them all the rights and benefits given to socially and economically backward classes. While much of the democratic world has made huge strides in awarding civil rights to LGBTQs in the last few years, India has shamefully gone backward, recriminalising thousands of its citizens simply for being homosexual. Hopefully, the US example will draw the attention of our legislators to this lingering stain on our statute books.
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