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High Court upholds marriage between man and transwoman in TN

The Madurai bench of the Madras High Court (HC) on Monday (April 22) made a historic judgment that a marriage between a man and transwoman is valid and ordered its registration.

A couple from Thoothukudi sought direction from Joint Registrar to register their marriage that was solemnised at a Hindu temple as per Hindu rights and customs. The marriage was deemed not bigamous and that it had taken place, certified the Village Administrative Officer (VAO). The temple authorities too permitted the marriage but declined to vouch for it.

Justice GR Swaminathan said that the marriage solemnised between the couple was valid and the Registrar of Marriages was bound to register it. “By holding so, this court is not breaking any new ground. It is merely stating the obvious. Sometimes, to see the obvious, one needs not only physical vision in the eye but also love in the heart.”

The court said that the state shall not deny any person equality before law or equal protection within the territory of India, which would apply to transgenders also. Referring to Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution, it said, “they fall within the expression ‘person’ and hence are entitled to legal protection of laws in all spheres of State activity as enjoyed by any other citizen of this country.”

The judgement further said that discrimination on the grounds of gender or sexual orientation affects the equality before law and equal protection. “For too long, the transgender persons have been languishing in the margins. The Constitution of India is an enabling document. It is inviting them to join the mainstream. It is absurd to deny the transgenders the benefit of the social institutions already in place in the mainstream.”

Since the couple belonged to different castes, the court said that they would be eligible for the benefits of Dr Ambedkar scheme for social integration to encourage inter-caste marriages.

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