The Union government’s decision, conveyed to the Supreme Court bench hearing the petition seeking legal status for same-sex marriage, that it has decided to form a high level committee headed by the cabinet secretary to examine what steps it can take administratively to address the “genuine human concerns” of such couples is welcome.
The panel could, “without going into the legal questions”, possibly take up for discussion the question mentioned by the court as to whether social welfare benefits such as opening joint bank accounts, nominating life partners in provident fund accounts, gratuity and pension schemes can be granted to same-sex couples as well. The government has also expressed its openness to discuss possible solutions with the people who have moved the court.
The government’s position reflects a refreshing change from the earlier one of extreme denial, calling same-sex marriage an urban elitist concept. It has forced itself to the discussion table to see if something can be done to address the questions administratively.
The effort should be to find comprehensive solutions to legal and practical issues which have constitutional backing. It would be made possible only with an open-minded approach by all stakeholders and the government is an important player in it. As the petitioner’s lawyer pointed out, administrative tweaking can do only so much.
The government indeed has a point that society at large may be sceptical about the very idea but the Constitution and constitutional morality would dictate that every single human being, irrespective of sex or sexual orientation, has a right to enjoy the fruits of democracy.
It will be ideal if elected representatives sit down and discuss the nuances in the understanding of human behaviour and take appropriate decisions. But if it takes time, administrative tweaking and judicial intervention will offer the people concerned some immediate relief.
Any positive outcome of the deliberations of the government-appointed committee will go a long way in helping India align itself with the way civilised societies everywhere move ahead.