On same-sex union, faith leaders show rare unity

Muslim, Jain, Sikh and Christian leaders, along with the RSS, are opposing same-sex marriage in an ongoing Supreme Court case, arguing that it contravenes religious scriptures, societal values and the natural family order.

Updated - April 03, 2023 09:01 am IST

Published - April 02, 2023 11:12 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Gay couple Vishwa Srivastava (right) and Vivek Kishore (left) show their wedding rings in Gurgaon. File

Gay couple Vishwa Srivastava (right) and Vivek Kishore (left) show their wedding rings in Gurgaon. File | Photo Credit: AFP

Religious leaders across different faiths have joined hands to oppose the plea for recognition of same-sex marriages in the Supreme Court.

Some have filed an application in the Supreme Court opposing petitions in favour of same-sex marriages, while others have written to the President seeking her intervention. The Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, the Communion of Churches, and the Akal Takht, along with representatives of the Ajmer dargah and Jain gurus have raised concerns about a legal sanction for same-sex marriages, claiming that it is against the natural family order apart from being in contravention of their differing scriptures. Several leaders reiterated the sentiment that marriage is an institution for procreation, not recreation. The RSS also opposes same-sex marriage, though it has accepted same-sex relationships, holding a position in line with the Central government.

The Supreme Court Bench has said that the hearing of the case will be livestreamed from April 18 in public interest.

‘Diluting the concept’

Taking the lead is the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, which has opposed the petitions seeking legal validation for same-sex marriages through an application filed in the Supreme Court. “The concept of marriage between two opposite sexes is like the basic feature of marriage itself which leads to the creation of a bundle of rights (maintenance, inheritance, guardianship, custody). By these petitions, the petitioners are seeking to dilute the concept of marriage by introducing a free-floating system through the concept of same-sex marriage,” the application stated.

In a media statement, the Jamaat-e-Islami’s vice president Salim Engineer, referred to a marriage between a man and a woman as “the correct form” of marriage. “The Jamaat is opposed to same-sex marriages. We feel that the correct and universally accepted meaning of marriage refers to the marriage between a man and a woman. Any tampering therein would go against our civilizational values as well as disturb the many personal laws of the country,” Mr. Engineer said. “Allowing same-sex marriages will present a great danger to the well-entrenched family system. It will violate the rights of men and women in society,” he added. Mr. Engineer also reiterated the Jamaat’s opposition to the decriminalisation of Section 377 which now permits sex between consenting adults, irrespective of gender.

The Ajmer dargah’s Salman Chishti said that the balance between personal laws and accepted societal values was in danger, citing Islamic beliefs to buttress his stand against same-sex marriages.

Against societal values

His views found an echo in those of Jain guru Acharya Lokesh, who felt that such a move would go against the ancient values of our society. He reiterated that in Jainism too, marriage is the foundation for reproduction and the extension of the family tree, something not possible in a same-sex marital alliance.

The Communion of Churches also reiterated that marriage was a divine institution in the Christian faith, holding that a union of two persons of the same sex cannot have the validity of marriage. The Communion has also written to the President on the subject.

The Sikh leadership of the Akal Takht has also been opposed to same-sex marriage.

Changed stance

Earlier, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) shared a slightly more nuanced stand on the subject, stating that the body was open to same-sex relationships, but not ready to accept same-sex marriage. This marks a departure from its stance in 2018, when the RSS had opposed the move to decriminalise same-sex consensual relationships. The RSS has come around since then, with its sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat recalling how, when Lord Krishna’s General Dimbhaka allegedly died, his other General Hans committed suicide on hearing the news. The two men were probably in a homosexual relationship.

However, its acceptance of same-sex relationships does not extend to a marital alliance. “Marriage is supposed to be between two opposite genders. It’s not a contract or an instrument of enjoyment,” RSS general secretary Dattatreya Hosabale told the media.

The RSS’ stance mirrors that of the Centre. “We support the government’s position on the matter,” Mr. Hosabale said, echoing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement in the Rajya Sabha: “Same sex marriage will cause havoc with a delicate balance of personal laws in the country.”

Balancing rights and laws

Supreme Court Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, heading a three-judge Bench on March 13, said that the case involved an “interplay” between the constitutional rights of life, liberty, dignity, equal treatment of members of the LGBTQ+ community on one side, and specific statutory enactments which considers only a married union between a biological man and woman on the other side.

The three-judge Bench, also comprising Justices P.S. Narasimha and J.B. Pardiwala, had invoked Article 145(3) of the Constitution to refer the case to a five-judge Bench. Article 145(3) mandates that cases involving substantial questions and interpretation of the Constitution should be heard by a Bench of at least five judges.

The petitioners had argued that the court’s judgment in Navtej Singh Johar in 2018, while decriminalising homosexuality, had also upheld the individual right to family and choice of partners. “Right to love and marry cannot be withheld from a class of persons solely on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Right to marry is the natural consequence of the decriminalisation judgment,” senior advocate A.M. Singhvi, for petitioners, submitted.

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