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Gay Families in India Deserve Legal Protection, the Supreme Court Rules

In contrast to Singapore’s recent attempts to exclude LGBTQ persons from the legal right to marry, the Supreme Court of India recently ruled that same-sex couples and other non-traditional families are entitled to social benefits.

The top court’s two-judge panel ruled that the law “must not be relied upon to disadvantage families which are different from traditional ones.”

Familial relationships may take the form of domestic, unmarried partnerships or queer relationships

The case involved maternity leave benefits for a lady who had adopted the children from her husband’s previous marriage before becoming pregnant with her own child. The opinion, written by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, defined a home broadly to include single parents, stepparents, and adoptive families even though the case didn’t specifically involve an LGBTQ family.

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 decision establishes a precedent that will further India’s cautious but steady softening of anti-LGBTQ laws from the colonial era. The effort is also seen as a boost to the economy, which competes for talent and business travelers with other financial centers in Asia.

A court decision in 2014 acknowledged transgender people as belonging to a third gender, and the supreme court decriminalized sex between men in 2018. In the lower court, a case challenging the ban on same-sex unions is now being heard.

Although Singapore’s officials made it plain that this was not a step toward equal rights for LGBTQ individuals in the city-state, Singapore also decriminalized sex between men.

The administration there intends to use a constitutional change to increase the barriers to same-sex marriage legalization, excluding gay and lesbian families from a wide range of social benefits.

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