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  • Virat Kumar

The Legal and Social Implications of Same-Sex Marriage

by: Virat Kumar, Birla Global University (BSOL), 1st year BB.A.LL.B


ABSTRACT

Same-sex marriage stands as one of the most significant socio-legal developments of the 21st century, sparking intense debates across legal, political, and social spheres worldwide. This article provides a comprehensive examination of the complex legal and social implications arising from the legalization of same-sex marriage. Beginning with a historical overview, the article traces the evolution of same sex marriage laws, from early opposition to recent victories. It highlights pivotal legal battles and landmark court decisions, such as the United States Supreme Court's ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which affirmed the constitutional right to same-sex marriage in 2015. These legal milestones not only reflect changing societal attitudes but also shape the broader discourse on LGBTQ+ rights and equality. Moreover, the article explores the socio-cultural impact of same- sex marriage, examining how it challenges traditional norms and fosters inclusivity within diverse communities. It analyzes the role of media representation, political advocacy, and grassroots activism in shaping public perceptions and fostering greater acceptance of LGBTQ+ individuals and relationships. Furthermore, it investigates the intersectionality of same-sex marriage with issues of race, class, and gender identity, highlighting disparities in access to marriage rights and resources within marginalized communities. In addition to its cultural significance, same-sex marriage carries substantial economic implications. The article discusses the economic benefits associated with marriage equality, including increased consumer spending, tax revenues, and workplace productivity. It also addresses ongoing debates surrounding religious freedom and conscience rights, as some individuals and institutions seek exemptions from anti-discrimination laws based on their beliefs. From a legal standpoint, the article examines the challenges and opportunities presented by the recognition of same-sex marriages across different jurisdictions. It explores issues such as cross-border recognition, parental rights, and access to healthcare, emphasizing the need for comprehensive legal protections to safeguard the rights of LGBTQ+ couples and families. the legalization of same-sex marriage has far-reaching implications that extend beyond individual relationships to impact broader social, legal, and economic systems. By addressing these implications, this article contributes to a deeper understanding of the ongoing discourse surrounding marriage equality and its significance for building more inclusive and equitable societies.

INTRODUCTION

Same-sex marriage, once a contentious and often taboo subject, has emerged as a focal point of legal, social, and political discourse in the 21st century. The legalization of same-sex marriage in various jurisdictions around the world has sparked intense debates regarding its legal and social implications. This article aims to provide a comprehensive examination of the multifaceted ramifications of same-sex marriage, drawing on legal precedent, sociological research, and cultural analysis. The journey towards marriage equality has been characterized by significant legal battles and societal shifts. In the United States, the landmark case of (Obergefell v. Hodges in 20151) marked a turning point in the recognition of same-sex marriage rights. The Supreme Court's ruling affirmed that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples under the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution, signaling a historic victory for LGBTQ+ rights advocates. This decision not only legalized same-sex marriage nationwide but also underscored the evolving understanding of equality and justice within the legal framework. Internationally, the landscape of same-sex marriage varies widely, reflecting diverse cultural, religious, and political contexts. While countries like Canada, the United Kingdom, and Argentina have embraced marriage equality, others continue to grapple with legal prohibitions and social stigma surrounding same-sex relationships. Nevertheless, the global trend towards recognizing and legitimizing same- sex unions underscores the growing recognition of LGBTQ+ rights as human rights (Baehr v. Lewin, 19932). The legal recognition of same-sex marriage has profound implications for societal norms and values, challenging traditional definitions of marriage and family. Sociological research has documented the transformative impact of marriage equality on LGBTQ+ individuals and communities. Studies have shown that legalizing same-sex marriage fosters a sense of belonging and validation among LGBTQ+ individuals, reducing feelings of stigma and discrimination (Herek & Garnets, 20073)Moreover, it provides tangible benefits in terms of access to healthcare, inheritance rights, and parental recognition, thereby promoting social and economic equality (Badgett, 20094). The cultural significance of same-sex marriage extends beyond legal recognition to encompass broader narratives of love, commitment, and social acceptance. Media representation plays a crucial role in shaping public perceptions and attitudes towards LGBTQ+ relationships. Increased visibility of same-sex couples in mainstream media has contributed to greater acceptance and normalization of diverse forms of love and partnership (Gross, 20015). Furthermore, the celebration of same-sex weddings in popular culture, from television shows to celebrity endorsements, has served to destigmatize LGBTQ+ relationships and challenge heteronormative assumptions (Rhodes & Schow, 2015). However, the legalization of same-sex marriage has not been without controversy and opposition. Religious and conservative groups have voiced concerns about the redefinition of marriage and the erosion of traditional values. Some argue that same-sex marriage undermines the sanctity of marriage as an institution ordained by religious teachings (Gallagher, 20046). Moreover, debates over religious freedom and conscience rights have emerged, as individuals and institutions seek exemptions from anti-discrimination laws based on their religious beliefs (Sherif, 2012). the legalization of same-sex marriage represents a significant milestone in the ongoing struggle for LGBTQ+ rights and equality. By examining the legal, social, and cultural implications of marriage equality, this article seeks to contribute to a deeper understanding of the complexities surrounding this contentious issue. Through a nuanced analysis of legal precedent, sociological research, and cultural discourse, it aims to shed light on the transformative impact of same-sex marriage on individuals, communities, and society at large.

BACKGROUND

The legalization of same-sex marriage has triggered significant legal and social ramifications on a global scale. Throughout history, marriage has traditionally been understood as a sacred bond between a man and a woman, deeply entrenched in religious and cultural norms. However, societal attitudes have gradually evolved, leading to a greater acceptance and acknowledgment of LGBTQ+ relationships. Landmark legal decisions, such as the Netherlands' pioneering move to legalize same-sex marriage in 2001, have set a precedent for transformative shifts in legal landscapes worldwide. These advancements have empowered same-sex couples with access to rights and protections previously withheld from them, encompassing areas such as inheritance, healthcare, and parental rights. Despite these advancements, persistent challenges persist, with opposition from religious, cultural, and political quarters fueling ongoing debates regarding the definition of marriage and the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals. Nonetheless, the legalization of same-sex marriage has sparked profound societal changes, altering family dynamics, fostering inclusivity, and enhancing the overall well being of LGBTQ+ communities. It signifies a significant stride towards achieving equality and acknowledging the diversity of relationships in contemporary society. India, a secular country, ensures everyone's freedom to follow and share any chosen religion. As a deeply spiritual society, certain behaviors and personal laws are faith-based. This extends to topics like same sex relationships too. The history of same sex relationship shows an interesting side because it showed how it went from an open liberal, free society to a conservative one. The British in India introduced section 377 of Indian penal code. This provision criminalized any sexual relationship between the same sex couple and further to which they’ll be punishable with imprisonment and fine. Later in 2018, in the case of Navtej Johar the constitutional bench decided to decriminalize section 377. Historically, there have been many references that acknowledge same sex relationships and transgender in India. The Vedic times and Hindu scriptures, art and architecture show that the gender fluidity was present in the past. Some examples include Valmiki’s Ramayana which refers to Hanuman seeing rakshasa women kissing. The arrival of King Bhagirathi; places of worship like the Khajuraho, Ellora caves found in Maharashtra, and Sun Temple in Kornak, along with the famous book, Kama Sutra, written by Vatsyayana. This work discusses sex, erotic elements, and happiness in life. The sculptures in the temples of are carved with illustrations of same-sex relations, including an open depiction of exposed men and women erotically embracing each other with sexual fluidity. Similar images can be seen of the sun temple in Konark. The Ellora caves which depict the life of Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, also have such paintings depicting men and women in same-sex intercourse. Baburnama is the most prominent example of a text referring to same-sex attraction, In Islamic literature. These are some of the important examples which show homosexuality has always been there in our country and culture. But with the upcoming of the Britishers many laws were introduced which destroyed the practices which were done in the past. This law followed alongside society's moral beliefs and views, seen as immoral. Life after death, based on religious belief, had people questioning such behaviors, clearly removing any sense of decency or humaneness. Such viewpoint deeply rooted into society, and even after gaining independence, the legal structure maintained the Indian Penal Code and Section 377 within it. The British, who originally introduced this in the legal system, eliminated it in their country in 1967. However, in India, the battle lasted until 2018.

LAWS AND RIGHTS OF LGBTQ+ IN OTHER COUNTRIES 

The interdependent relationship between health and human rights is well recognized. Some peop le, specifically LGBTQ+ individuals, are in many countries and denied their claim to the equal sets

of human rights. This puts LGBTQ+ people in many countries at risk for discrimination, abuse, poor health, and death – which violates the ultimate human rights. In most countries, abuses and violence carried out is not viewed as violation of human rights. Some countries such as Iran and Saudi Arabia have callings for the execution of “practicing homosexual activity”. Additional 35 or more countries criminalize same sex activity just for men, and at least 40 countries criminalize same-sex behavior for both men and women. In many Muslim counties, both civil and sharia’s7 homosexual behavior is criminalized. Legalizing marriage gives many additional benefits,rights and protection to couples. Around 34 governments have recognized same sex marriage and to form a family. South Africa in 1996 became the first country to include sexual orientation to its Constitution as a status protected from discrimination and has legalized same sex marriage in November 2006 as per the Civil Union Act8, 20069. There are currently three laws provided for the status of marriage in South Africa. These are the Marriage Act (Act 25 of 19619)10, which offers for civil or religious opposite-sex marriages; the Recognition of Customary Marriages Act (Act 120 of 199810), which offers for the civil registration of marriages solemnized according to the traditions of indigenous groups; and the Civil Union Act (Act 17 of 2006), which offers for opposite-sex and same-sex civil marriages, religious marriages and civil partnerships. A person may only be married under one of these laws at any given time. The same-sex marriage in the United States expanded from one state i.e. Massachusetts in 2004 to all fifty states in 2015 through various court rulings, state legislation, and direct popular votes. Each state has their own separate marriage laws, which must stick to rulings by the Supreme Court of the United States that recognize marriage as a fundamental right guaranteed by both the Due Process Clause 11and the Equal Protection Clause12 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, as first established in the 1967 landmark civil rights case of Loving v. Virginia13. Several European countries like Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, the UK, France, Germany, Switzerland, Portugal, Slovenia, Croatia, and Iceland have some benefits for same-sex couples, but not equal to those of heterosexual couples. Same-sex marriage is legal in all parts of the United Kingdom. As marriage is a devolved legislative matter, different states of the United Kingdom legalized at different period of time. Same sex marriage has been recognized and performed in England and Wales since March 2014, in Scotland since December 2014, and in Northern Ireland since January 2020. Civil partnerships, which offer most of the rights and benefits of marriage but not all, have been recognized since 2005.

LAWS RELATING TO LGBT RIGHTS IN INDIA

The following laws have been made by the Indian government for the advancement and to normalize LGBTQ+ community:

1.      Removal of section 377 of the IPC, 1860:

In the case of Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India14 , brought by the Constitutional Bench, led by the then-CJI Justice Dipak Mishra, the Supreme Court of India decriminalized Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. Formerly, Section 377 made it illegal for homosexuals to have sexual relationships. The decision was a step closer in the fight for the equality and normalization of LGBTQ community members.

2.        The 2019 Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act: 

In Indian mythology, transgender persons were acknowledged but, during the British era, they experienced violence and prejudice, which contributed to their backwardness. Various laws have been issued to restore the standing of the transgender community. The Supreme Court of India recognized transgender as the third gender in the case of National Legal Services Authority v. Union of India 15. It was the most well-known ruling, and in response, the first-ever bill protecting the rights of the transgender community was proposed in 2014. However, it expired in 2016. ties to transsexual individuals.

3.      Reservations for transgender people:

In the case of National Legal Services Authority v. Union of India 16 The Supreme Court of India ruled that transgender people belong to the third gender. As a result of this declaration, the transgender person is now eligible for reservations under India’s quota policy. According to the Indian Constitution, the transgender people are entitled to both economic and educational accommodation.

 

HARDSHIP FACED BY THE LGBTQ COMMUNITY

The inequality in health care exists in all societies for the sexual minorities. Their requirement of health care should be safeguarded because they are at a high risk of various mental and physical illnesses. Many LGBT individuals face major issues every year. These issues are related to violence, unemployment, poverty, and getting healthcare. Most Indian youth than ever before may accept and support homosexuality and sexual minorities today, but they still struggle to open up within their family, school and accept their sexuality socially. With the upcoming of the online social media the awareness and acknowledgment is provided to the LGBTQ people, but still there is a lack of knowledge about their hardship in daily life. Members of the LGBT community, including transgender individuals, face challenges in their goal for acceptance and equal rights. Sadly, The LGBT community is frequently judged negatively. This lack of acceptance is particularly noticeable for transgender persons, who face societal judgements.

 

CONCLUSION

The legal and social implications of same-sex marriage underscore a significant shift in societal norms and legal recognition of LGBTQ+ rights. By analyzing the legal landscape, societal attitudes, and the impact on individuals and communities, it becomes evident that same-sex marriage represents a milestone in the pursuit of equality and human rights.

Despite ongoing challenges and debates, the growing acceptance of same-sex marriage reflects a broader trend towards inclusivity and recognition of diverse forms of love and partnership. Ultimately, the legalization of same-sex marriage not only promotes equality under the law but also fosters greater social cohesion and acceptance.


Reference

1 576 U.S. 644,

2 74 Haw. 530 (Haw. 1993)

3 Herek, G.M. and Garnets, L.D. (2007) Sexual Orientation and Mental Health. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 3, 353-375.

4 Badgett, M. V. Lee. When Gay People Get Married: What Happens When Societies Legalize Same-Sex Marriage. NYU Press, 2009. JSTORhttp://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qfd36Accessed 15 Apr. 2024.

5 Emotion Regulation in Adulthood: Timing Is Everything by James J. Gross Volume 10, Issue 6 https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-8721.00152

7 the rules governing the practice of Islam

8 The Civil Union Act, 2006 (Act No. 17 of 2006) is an act of the Parliament of South Africa which legalized same- sex marriage. It allows two people, regardless of gender, to form either a marriage or a civil partnership.

9 The Marriage Act, 1961 (Act No. 25 of 1961) is an act of the Parliament of South Africa governing the solemnization and registration of marriages in South Africa.

10 1 The Recognition of Customary Marriages Act, 1998 (Act No. 120 of 1998) is a South African statute in terms of which marriages performed under African customary law, including polygynous marriages, are recognized as legal marriages

11 A Due Process Clause is found in both the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, which prohibit the deprivation of "life, liberty, or property" by the federal and state governments, respectively, without due process of law.

12 Equal Protection Clause - provides "nor shall any State ... deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." It mandates that individuals in similar situations be treated equally by the law

13 4 Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967), was a landmark civil rights decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in which the Court ruled that laws banning interracial marriage violate the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

14 AIR 2018 SC 4321

15 AIR 2014 SC 1863

16 AIR 2014 SC 1863

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