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India's supreme court has issued a ruling on same-sex marriage.


India's top court declined to legalize same-sex marriages today. This ruling affects what is now the world's most populous country. I still run into people who missed that bit of news from earlier this year. India is the world's most populous country. And same-sex marriages are not legal there at this time. NPR international correspondent Diaa Hadid is covering the story. She is now based in Mumbai. Hey there, Diaa.


INSKEEP: What exactly happened?

HADID: Well, five justices of the Supreme Court made this ruling in response to a petition by same-sex marriage advocates. The court had reserved its judgment in May. So this had been months in the waiting. Four of the judges even issued their own judgments. There's a lot to unpack here, but the key message from the court was that legalizing these unions is the job of the legislature. So here's the chief justice. He goes by D.Y. Chandrachud. And he's explaining the reasoning.


D Y CHANDRACHUD: It lies within the domain of Parliament and the state legislatures to enact laws recognizing and regulating queer marriage.

HADID: He says the court is institutionally limited in what it can do, in part because the Constitution doesn't expressly recognize a fundamental right to marry. But the judges were broadly clear that same-sex relationships shouldn't be discriminated against. The chief justice even went further to say that same-sex relationships had existed in India since antiquity. And he was clear how he thought the Parliament should legislate. He said this moment was an opportunity to reckon with what he called this historical injustice.

INSKEEP: Oh, this is fascinating because you have the justice here saying, here is my personal opinion, just so you know, but my duty under the law is something else. So how did people respond?

HADID: Well, certainly, some people welcomed it, arguing precisely that. It just wasn't in the court's domain to decide this. So this is the Supreme Court Bar Association president, Adish Aggarwala.

ADISH AGGARWALA: I'm happy that Supreme Court of India has accepted the version of the government of India in which it was argued that the court has no power to give this right of same-sex marriage.

HADID: And just like in the United States, conservative religious groups in India welcomed the verdict. They say same-sex marriages goes against nature.

INSKEEP: There must be a different sort of response from people who had argued in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage.

HADID: Absolutely. And it's glass half empty, glass half full here. Some same-sex advocates took heart in the court's clear pronouncements about their social equality. But others said that the court had left them in limbo because the judges said the government should set up a committee to look at how to ensure same-sex couples aren't discriminated against. So Anish Gawande is the co-founder of the Pink List India, and it monitors politicians supporting same-sex rights. And he described this as a sobering day. And he says it's clear from the judgment that same-sex marriage activists can't keep going to the courts. I'll just pick that up again. He called this a sobering day and said it's clear from the judgment that same-sex marriage activists can't keep going to the courts.

ANISH GAWANDE: The verdict is clearly one that puts the ball in the government's court. You're going to see renewed attempts that had been stalled for a while that seek to engage with the political class in a far more meaningful and a far more sort of direct way.

INSKEEP: NPR's Diaa Hadid in Mumbai, thanks.

HADID: You're welcome, Steve.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Diaa Hadid chiefly covers Pakistan and Afghanistan for NPR News. She is based in NPR's bureau in Islamabad. There, Hadid and her team were awarded a Murrow in 2019 for hard news for their story on why abortion rates in Pakistan are among the highest in the world.