High Court Judge Offers Hope for Same-Sex Couples in Landmark Ruling

In a groundbreaking move that stands in stark contrast to a recent Supreme Court decision, Justice Anand Venkatesh of the Madras High Court has directed the State government to develop a "Deed of Familial Association" that would grant legal recognition to same-sex and other LGBTQIA+ relationships. This landmark order, issued on November 17, 2023, in the case of Sushma vs Commissioner of Police, offers a beacon of hope for same-sex couples in India who have long been denied equal rights and protections.

The Judge's decision comes amidst a backdrop of ongoing legal battles for same-sex marriage and civil unions in India. While the Supreme Court, in the recent Supriyo vs Union of India case, declined to recognize the right to same-sex marriage or civil unions, Justice Venkatesh's order presents a progressive alternative that could significantly improve the lives of LGBTQIA+ individuals.

In his ruling, Justice Venkatesh acknowledged the rights of queer couples to form relationships, cohabit, and enjoy intimacy under Article 21 of the Constitution of India, which guarantees the fundamental right to life and personal liberty. He recognized the limitations of the Supreme Court's decision in Supriyo and took a proactive approach to address the legal limbo in which same-sex couples find themselves.

The proposed "Deed of Familial Association" would provide a mechanism for same-sex and other LGBTQIA+ couples to register their relationships and access certain legal benefits, such as inheritance rights, hospital visitation rights, and decision-making authority in medical emergencies. While not a substitute for same-sex marriage or civil unions, the Deed would represent a significant step forward in recognizing and protecting the rights of LGBTQIA+ individuals.

Justice Venkatesh's innovative approach has been met with praise from LGBTQIA+ rights activists and legal experts. They commend the Judge's willingness to uphold the fundamental rights of LGBTQIA+ individuals and to find creative solutions in the face of legislative inaction.

The Judge's decision serves as a powerful reminder that the courts play a crucial role in advancing social justice and protecting the rights of marginalized communities. It is a stark contrast to the regressive stance taken by the Supreme Court in the Supriyo case and highlights the importance of judicial activism in upholding the principles of equality and non-discrimination.

As the fight for same-sex marriage and civil unions continues in India, Justice Venkatesh's order stands as a beacon of hope for LGBTQIA+ couples. It is a testament to the power of the judiciary to protect the rights of all individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.