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Same-Sex Marriage Verdict 2023 by 5 Judge Supreme Court Bench

Context: A Supreme Court Bench led by the Chief Justice of India has recently referred petitions to legally recognise same-sex marriages to a Constitution Bench of five judges.

Same-Sex Marriage Verdict 2023

The Supreme Court of India delivered its verdict on the legal recognition of same-sex marriage on 17 October. The apex court had previously reserved its judgment on May 11 regarding a set of petitions seeking legal validation for same-sex marriage. The five-judge Constitution bench responsible for hearing these pleas consisted of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justices SK Kaul, SR Bhat, Hima Kohli, and PS Narasimha.

Throughout the hearings, the petitioners argued that India, as a culture centred on marriage, should extend equal rights to LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) couples. These rights would encompass aspects such as the legal status of “spouse” in financial and insurance matters, as well as in medical, inheritance, and succession decisions. Furthermore, they emphasized that equality should be upheld in adoption and surrogacy matters for LGBT couples, granting them the same privileges as heterosexual couples.

Same-Sex Marriage in India Explanation Video

What is Same-Sex Marriage?

  • Same-sex marriage is the marriage of two people of the same sex.
  • As of 2023, marriage between same-sex couples is legally performed and recognized in 34 countries, with the most recent being Andorra.
  • Same-sex marriage is not legally recognized in India, and the existing marriage laws, such as the Hindu Marriage Act and the Special Marriage Act, only recognize marriages between a man and a woman.
    • However, it should be noted that the Special Marriage Act uses gender-neutral terms as Section 5 says “a marriage between any two persons may be solemnized under this Act”.
    • Similarly, Section 5 of the Hindu Marriage Act mentions marriage between “any two Hindus”.

Same-Sex Marriage in India

Same-sex marriage is the union between two individuals of the same gender, typically two men or two women. While it has been legalized in 34 countries, including Andorra, encompassing around 17% of the global population, it remains constrained by legal, religious, and cultural norms in many places. Advocates argue that non-recognition of same-sex marriage amounts to discrimination against LGBTQ+ couples, pushing for equal protection under existing marriage laws, such as the Special Marriage Act of 1954.

However, the Indian government opposes such recognition, viewing marriage as a sacred union between a biological man and a biological woman. Legalizing same-sex marriage has the potential to impact society from the individual to the community and beyond.

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Observations of the Supreme Court

  • The Supreme Court addressed the government’s concerns about the potential psychological impact of same-sex marriages on children, stating that growing up with lesbian or gay parents does not necessarily mean the child will identify as lesbian or gay.
  • The government’s concern about how such a move would affect Indian “social ethos” was also addressed by the Court.
  • The Court observed that Parliament will have to examine what would be the psychology of a child who has seen either two men or only two women as parents and what would be the psychology of a child who was not reared by a father and a mother and whether this institution aligns with India’s social ethos.

Same-Sex Marriage Judgment


Date Event
March 12, 2023 Centre opposes same-sex marriage before the SC
March 13, 2023 SC refers the case to a Constitution Bench
April 1, 2023 Jamiat Ulama-I-Hind opposes the pleas
April 6, 2023 DCPCR supports same-sex marriages
April 15, 2023 The composition of the five-judge bench is notified
April 17, 2023 Centre files a new application questioning pleas’ maintainability
April 17, 2023 NCPCR suggests limited exposure for children raised by same-sex parents
May 11, 2023 The constitution bench led by Chief Justice Chandrachud reserves its verdict
October 17, 2023 SC refuses to give marriage equality rights to the LGBTQIA+ community in India under Same-Sex Marriage Verdict

Supreme Court Judgment on Same Sex Marriage

In a 3:2 ruling, the Supreme Court of India rejected petitions for the legalization of same-sex marriage and declined to make amendments to the Special Marriage Act. The decision was rendered by a five-judge Constitution Bench, led by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud. All five judges concurred that there is no inherent right for non-heterosexual couples to marry, with the prevailing opinion being that this matter should be determined by the legislature.

While Chief Justice Chandrachud and Justice Sanjay Krishan Kaul asserted that the right of same-sex couples to engage in civil unions is rooted in Part 3 of the Constitution, Justices S Ravindra Bhat, Hima Kohli, and P S Narasimha held differing views.

Arguments For and Against Same-Sex Marriages

Arguments for Same-Sex Marriages

  • Equality: All individuals should have the same rights and opportunities, including the right to marry the person they love, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • Love and Commitment: Allowing same-sex couples to marry recognizes and affirms these relationships.
  • Social Acceptance: Legalizing same-sex marriages sends a message of social acceptance and inclusion, and can help reduce stigma and discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community.

Arguments against Same-Sex Marriages

  • Traditional definition: Marriage has traditionally been defined as a union between a man and a woman, and changing this is seen as undermining the institution of marriage.
  • Religious Beliefs: Same-sex marriages go against the teachings of many religions, and legalizing them would infringe on the religious freedom of those who oppose them.
  • Parenting: Legalizing same-sex marriages is believed to harm children’s psyche.
  • Slippery Slope: Legalizing same-sex marriages could lead to the recognition of other non-traditional forms of relationships, such as polygamy or incest.

LGBTQIA+ Community in India

The Constitutional status of the LGBTQ+ community in India has been a topic of debate and struggle for many years.

  • Prior to 2018, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code criminalized homosexual acts, making it illegal to engage in same-sex sexual activity.
    • This was upheld by the Supreme Court as constitutionally valid in Koushal v. Naz Foundation (2013).
    • This provision was struck down by the Apex Court of India in September 2018 in a landmark judgment, Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India, which decriminalized consensual same-sex relationships.
  • However, there is no specific constitutional protection for the community in India. The Indian Constitution does not explicitly mention sexual orientation or gender identity as protected characteristics, nor does it provide explicit anti-discrimination protections based on these characteristics.
  • The Supreme Court has made several judgments in recent years that recognize the rights and dignity of LGBTQ+ individuals. For example:
    • National Legal Services Authority v. Union of India (2014): This landmark judgment recognized transgender people as a third gender, and directed the government to take steps to provide them with legal recognition, provide access to education, employment, and healthcare services and protection from discrimination.
    • S. Swapna v. Government of Kerala (2015): In this case, the Supreme Court ordered the Kerala government to provide transgender people with access to healthcare facilities and to establish separate prison facilities for them.

Constitutional Provisions for Protection of LGBTQ+ Community

  • Right to Equality: Article 14 of the Constitution guarantees the right to equality before the law and the equal protection of the law to all individuals, regardless of their sex, caste, religion, or place of birth. The Supreme Court has interpreted this provision to include sexual orientation as a protected ground.
  • Right to Non-Discrimination: Article 15 of the Constitution prohibits discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth.
  • Right to Freedom of Expression: Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution guarantees the right to freedom of expression to all individuals. This provision can be used to protect the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals to express themselves and advocate for their rights.
  • Right to Life and Personal Liberty: Article 21 of the Constitution guarantees the right to life and personal liberty to all individuals. The Supreme Court has interpreted this provision to include the right to live with dignity, which includes the right to make choices about one’s sexuality and gender identity.
  • Right to Privacy: The Supreme Court has recognized the right to privacy as a fundamental right under the Constitution. This includes the right to make choices about one’s sexual orientation and gender identity without fear of discrimination or harassment.

Other Important Terms to Know

  • Constitution Bench
    • It is a bench of the Supreme Court having five or more judges on it.
    • According to Article 145(3) of the Constitution, matters involving substantial questions of law as to the interpretation of the Constitution are to be decided by a minimum of five judges.
  • Division Bench: It consists of 2 to 3 judges of the Supreme Court. Most cases before SC are heard and decided by these division benches.
  • Single-judge benches: For the first time in the history of the SC, single-judge bench hearings were started in 2020. Single-judge benches will hear appeals related to bail and anticipatory bail cases.

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Same Sex Marriage FAQs

What is Same Sex Marriage?

Same-sex marriage is the marriage of two people of the same sex. 

What was the Supreme Court's verdict on same-sex marriage in India?

The Supreme Court of India, in a 3:2 ruling, declined to grant marriage equality rights to the LGBTQIA+ community in India, rejecting petitions seeking the legalization of same-sex marriage.

Who were the judges on the Constitution Bench that heard the same-sex marriage case?

The Constitution Bench consisted of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justices SK Kaul, SR Bhat, Hima Kohli, and PS Narasimha.

What were the arguments in favor of same-sex marriages in India?

Arguments in favor of same-sex marriages in India included promoting equality, recognizing love and commitment, fostering social acceptance, and ensuring equal rights in various aspects like financial and insurance matters, medical decisions, inheritance, and adoption.


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