They have managed to coast along as a couple for more than 14 years and even got married four years ago in the United States. “But that certificate is mostly a piece of paper in our country,” says 52-year-old Nitin Karani who works at an MNC in Mumbai and had filed a petition with his 38-year-old partner Thomas Joseph in the same-sex marriage case in the Supreme Court.
Their petition was one among a bunch of petitions that the apex court heard and gave its rulings on Tuesday. The Supreme Court has ruled out constitutional validity to same-sex marriages and observed that it is for Parliament to formulate legislation.
“Filing a petition was not just about the pain of not being recognized on par with heterosexual couples nor was it about the unwillingness to settle for less than equal treatment by the law. It is out of real concern for our future,” Karani told The Indian Express.
“What we got today was a lot of platitudes, a lot of rhetoric. We don’t need empty ‘empathy’. We just want what is due to us,” Karani added.
“Of course we know that the Central government and some states are in fact opposed to recognizing same-sex marriage. How can the court go by the word of the Central government that it will set up a committee and take some actions? Don’t we know how committees can go on for years and still get nowhere? We expected the court to take bold action, not just repeat bold words, and thus stand up for human rights in the real sense,” said Karani expressing his disappointment with the verdict.
“The SC is walking back on its commitment to marriage as a fundamental right, as enunciated in previous judgments. The verdict is a disappointment, not just to Thomas and me but to all LGBTIQ people and our allies around the world,” he told The Indian Express.
It took this couple a bit of luck to get married abroad on July 2, 2019, which coincidentally marked the 20th anniversary of India’s first rainbow pride-friendship walk and the 10th anniversary of the historic Delhi HC judgment that struck down Section 377 of the IPC (which criminalised homosexuality). The year of their marriage was a momentous one as they could participate in the pride parade celebrations organized by the LGBTQ community in New York on the occasion of the 50th-anniversary celebrations of the Stonewall uprising.
“Our marriage was not done on a whim and we do not use terms like husband or soulmate lightly. We had wanted to take the step for years before we did it, but first our families and then rules-citing bureaucrats had prevented us from doing it in India. Being open about our sexual orientation (we are both gay) and our relationship with most people at work and outside, will never be enough for us,” says Karani who edited Bombay Dost – India’s first gay magazine and has been involved in policy-related issues with several LGBTQ advocacy groups, including being a trustee with Pune-based Samapathik Trust.
The couple had managed to overcome some obstacles such as life insurance and nomination for some work-related death benefits.”So, we have joint bank accounts, a joint home mortgage, and so on. But there is the possibility of other obstacles. For example, will we be able to make medical decisions for each other, when the other is not in a position to do so themself?” asked Karani voicing a few of his concerns.
Bindumadhav Khire , LGBTQ activist and director of Bindu Queer Rights Foundation, Pune, said he was extremely disappointed with the SC verdict. “Nitin is a former trustee at Samapathik and last year, we got together and discussed the idea of filing a petition challenging the Special Marriage Act and Foreign Marriage Act… I really had high hopes but am extremely disappointed. The judgement is long on supporting LGBTIQ rights and understanding their plight, but is very short on delivering justice,” Khire told The Indian Express.