Marriage equality will be a reality in my lifetime: Queer activist Harish Iyer

Iyer is confident that India's 17% LGBTQ community holds substantial influence and will vote for change while uniting against those who oppose them.

Queer activist Harish Iyer (Photo: @iyerharish/Instagram)
Queer activist Harish Iyer (Photo: @iyerharish/Instagram)


Harish Iyer is one of the most well-known LGBTQI activists in India. He was one of the petitioners in the Supreme Court who sought equal marriage rights.

A professor and author, Iyer is said to be one of the most influential gay men in the world. Talking to IANS, Iyer expressed sadness over the setback to the LGBTQI community on marriage in the recent judgment of the Supreme Court.

Iyer says that he had taken it as a mission to get equal marriage rights during his lifetime for the community which comprises 17 per cent of the population in India. He also appealed to the Indian directors and actors to show audacity and courage.  

IANS: What are your first reflections on the Supreme Court verdict of not allowing same sex marriage?

Iyer: I am deeply sad. I think there was an opportunity for the Supreme Court to undo the wrongs happening to the LGBTQI+ community. There was a golden opportunity for the Supreme Court to undo that. But what we got in return - we were expecting an order - was beautifully manicured words and sentences with perfect syntax. But none of those words, and none of those sentences have any meaning because the end meaning was, we got nothing.

IANS: The Supreme Court had pushed the ball to the court of Parliament over same sex marriage, your views?

Iyer: First, I am deeply disappointed by the Supreme Court’s verdict. The Supreme Court’s verdict is that there is no verdict. I wonder if it knew that Parliament is the one which needs to take the decision in this regard. If that is the learned opinion, I wonder why one had to go through the entire process, if the end result is that Parliament has to take the decision.

Second, the words used by everyone in the Supreme Court show a shift in the mindset from Justice Singhvi and Justice Mukherjee’s order of 2013. There is a considerable shift from that mind set. But, having said that, what we got from the Supreme Court’s verdict is words of hope and words of sympathy.

IANS: How is the LGBTQ community responding and what is the way forward?

Iyer: The community is upset and low. It is steadfast in its focus that it has to, at least in our lifetime, this is a commitment from me as an LGBTQI activist, I assure every young person of India that they will have battles to fight. But, I will assure marriage equality is given and that isn’t the thing to fight. There may be other things, marriage equality will be a reality in my lifetime.  

IANS: What’s your take on political parties? Will they be able to fulfill the needs of the LGBTQ community?

Iyer: I think LGBTQI community is 17 per cent of the population of the country according to research. We are a most vibrant, one of the most vociferous communities that is there. It is not only our ability to vote people up and vote people down, but, the number of young people who believe in our calls, who will actually work together and ensure that all people opposing the LBBTQ community are voted out.

IANS: Do you see any difference between the BJP and the Congress with respect to dealing with the LGBTQ community?

Iyer: As a matter of fact it is not political parties but politicians. The BJP had Jagadambika Pal who stood for the community. Every political party has supporters and every political party has got leaders who are ignorant. So, it's not the political parties, we need to appeal to individual people who are allies and then see how it works.

IANS: Athletics champion Dutee Chand had come out in the open and registered her protest over the ruling. Will that serve as an inspiration for the community?

Iyer: Dutee Chand is an icon to come out and speak at that particular level when the whole world is looking at you. I wish many actors and directors in our country had the same audacity and courage. She is a one-woman spokesperson.

IANS: What do you want to convey to those who still feel hesitant to come out in the open?

Iyer: I want every individual and every young person in India that I know that sometimes hate might become the story that people tell. But there is enough love in the world. I also want to tell them that, like the older LGBTQI people, I will fight to get marriage equality in my lifetime. So, they will get the fruit. I am concerned about them; I will listen to them, and I will stand with them.

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