India’s top court declares same-sex couples entitled to social benefits, deserve legal protections
- The ruling sets a precedent that will further India’s slow but gradual easing of colonial-era anti-LGBTQ laws.
- The law ‘must not be relied upon to disadvantage families which are different from traditional ones,’ the top court’s panel wrote in its decision
A Supreme Court ruling in India affirmed that same-sex couples and other non-traditional families are entitled to social benefits, a decision that stands in stark contrast to last week’s moves by Singapore to exclude LGBTQ people from the legal right to marry.
The law “must not be relied upon to disadvantage families which are different from traditional ones”, the top court’s two-judge panel wrote in its decision. “Familial relationships may take the form of domestic, unmarried partnerships or queer relationships.”
The case revolved around maternity leave benefits for a woman who had adopted her husband’s children from a prior marriage, then conceived a child of her own. While the case did not directly concern an LGBTQ family, the ruling, written by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud defined a household broadly, to include single parents, stepparents and adoptive families.
“Such atypical manifestations of the family unit are equally deserving not only of protection under law but also of the benefits available under social welfare legislation,” the court said.
The ruling sets a precedent that will further India’s slow but gradual easing of colonial-era anti-LGBTQ laws. The effort is also considered a boost to the economy, which competes with Asia’s other financial hubs for talent and business tourism.
In 2014, a court ruling recognised transgender people as third gender, and in 2018 the top court decriminalised sex between men. A legal challenge to the prohibition on same-sex marriage is currently making its way through the lower court.
Singapore also decriminalised sex between men, but its policymakers made clear it was not a step toward equal rights for LGBTQ people in the city state. The government there is planning to use a constitutional amendment to raise the obstacles to legalising same-sex marriage, leaving a raft of social benefits out of reach for gay and lesbian families.