Right side of history

The long arc of history appears, finally, to be turning towards justice for same-sex couples in the UK. This week, the House of Commons voted in favour of legalising same-sex marriage by an overwhelming 225-vote margin, all but ensuring that the bill will become law, despite a revolt from more conservative Tory MPs. Marriage equality, as gay rights advocates refer to gay marriage now, is a progressive social measure whose time has come, and rather rapidly. Public opinion polls in the UK have reflected accelerating support for gay marriage a March 2012 poll, for instance, showed that 45 per cent of voters supported gay marriage, which increased to 62 per cent by December.

It is no surprise, then, that several governments have responded to the fast-changing views of their electorate by legalising gay marriage. Last year, for instance, US President Barack Obama came out with his support for it and last month, referred to it in his inauguration address. His administration also decided not to uphold the Defence of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as a legal union between a man and a woman. In November 2012, three states, Washington, Maine and Maryland, voted for legalisation of gay marriage. A similar consolidation of public opinion is visible in France and Germany, and the former has its own controversial marriage equality bill in parliament.

The push towards equal rights for gay men and women across the world shines a light on the darker predicament in India. Here, the legality of homosexuality is still contested and rests on a 2009 Delhi High Court judgment that struck down Section 377 of the IPC. Parliament has yet to amend the law. In this context, gay marriage, or even a civil union, is still a pipe dream.

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