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Future Of The Family Unit: Can SC Observation Mark Beginning Of A New Era For LGBTQIA Community?

Recent remarks by Indian courts, albeit mere observations, could open the doors for queer families to challenge the laws that prevent the achievement of equal recognition.

Another normal: Artwork titled Some Fathers, Some Mothers by Kalki Subramaniam

In a step that could mark the beginning of a new era of judicial tolerance and empowerment for the LGBTQIA+ community, the Supreme Court has signalled its support for the legal recognition of the queer family unit. In the matter of Deepika Singh vs. Central Administrative Tribunal, a Supreme Court bench comprising Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice AS Bopanna commented on the changing meaning of a family. While the case itself was not related to LGBTQIA+ rights, the Court stated that even though “the predominant understanding of the concept of a ‘family’ both in the law and in society is that it consists of a single, unchanging unit with a mother and a father (who remain constant over time) and their children”, a family unit can take many forms, and there may be “many circumstances which may lead to a change in one’s familial structure, and the fact that many families do not conform to this expectation to begin with. Familial relationships may take the form of domestic, unmarried partnerships or queer relationships.”

Most importantly, the court stated: “Such atypical manifestations of the family unit are equally deserving not only of protection under law but also of the benefits available under social welfare legislation. The black letter of the law must not be relied upon to disadvantage families which are different from traditional ones. The same undoubtedly holds true for women who take on the role of motherhood in ways that may not find a place in the popular imagination.”

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