U.S. top court turns away challenge to Mississippi LGBT law

Saul Bowman
January 9, 2018

The Apex Court also issued a notice to the Center's response on a writ petition filed by five members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community, who said they live in fear of police due to their natural sexual orientation and preferences.

In 2009, the High Court of Delhi ruled against the law, but in 2013, the Supreme Court set aside that ruling, keeping the law in place. Giving a ray of hope to the gay, lesbian and transgendered communities which are pushing for scrapping Section 377 of the IPC that criminalises homosexuality, the apex court decision moved a step towards a final judicial call on the controversial provision that has been described as "archaic".

According to the existing law, the unnatural offender is considered to be a person who "voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal".

A new round of challenges is expected from residents who have been denied service, and the issue could come back to the Supreme Court's doorstep. Several supreme court judges noted that sexual orientation fell under the privacy umbrella.

The following year, in 2015, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the judgment on gay sex should be reconsidered by the Supreme Court.

"Good laws like Mississippi's protect freedom and harm no one", said Kevin Theriot, one of the group's lawyers. While prosecutions under section 377 have been rare, activists have said that the police used the law to harass and intimidate members of the LGBT community.

"Congress welcomes Supreme Court's decision", All India Mahila Congress President Sushmita Dev said soon after a bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra referred a petition filed by five LGBT citizens seeking review of its 2013 order. "Because of that, we are pleased that the Supreme Court declined to take up these baseless challenges, which misrepresented the law's sole goal of ensuring that Mississippians don't live in fear of losing their careers or their businesses simply for affirming marriage as a husband-wife union". Underlining the need to bring them into the mainstream, the verdict by a bench of Justices KS Radhakrishnan and AK Sikri said transgenders should have all rights under the law, including marriage, adoption, divorce, succession, and inheritance.

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