The first historical mention of the performance of same sex marriages in Europe occurred during the early Roman Empire. Emperor Nero is reported to have been ceremoniously married to one of his male slaves. But the so-called marriages between two Roman males or with a slave had no legal standing in Roman law.
In 342 AD, Christian emperors Constantius II and Constans issued a law, the “Theodosian Code,” prohibiting same sex marriage in Rome and sanctioned execution for those so married. Opposition to same sex marriage in Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) is based upon Old Testament passages that discuss the fate of Sodom (Genesis 19:4 – 19:11), Gods command that one shall "not lie with mankind, as with womankind" (Leviticus 18: 22), and direction that those that do "shall surely be put to death".
Same sex relations or marriages are not sanctioned in the Catholic Church or major branches of the Protestant Church. It is also not sanctioned in Orthodox Judaism or in Islam. Homosexuality is punishable by death in Afghanistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Sudan, with life imprisonment in Pakistan and severely punishable in many Muslim countries.
In 2001, Netherlands became the first nation in the world to legalize same sex relations and marriage. Pope John Paul II, the previous head of the Roman Catholic Church, criticized same sex marriage when it was introduced in the Netherlands. His successor, Pope Benedict XVI has maintained opposition to gay marriage, and categorized it amongst "the most insidious and dangerous threats to the common good today."
Some Christian groups have been vocal and politically active in opposing legalizing same sex relationships and marriage in the United States. In 2009, a group of Christian leaders from various denominations issued the “Manhattan Declaration,” a statement that united evangelicals and Catholic leaders in fighting abortion and gay marriage. As of November 2010, the Declaration had been signed by over 475,000 individuals.
The Islamic view of marriage is that it is a contract (Nikah) between two parties where the man offers protection and maintenance to the woman in return for exclusive sexual and reproductive rights. Same sex marriages thus cannot be considered legal within the constraints of a Muslim marriage. Since 2001, ten countries, Netherlands, Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Iceland, Norway, Portugal, Spain, South Africa and Sweden have legalized gay marriage. Same sex marriages are also performed and recognized in Mexico City and parts of the United States. About 250 million people or 4% of the world population live in areas that recognize same sex marriage.
The word “Marriage" comes from the Latin word “matrimonium”, and is an institution involving a mother or “mater” (Latin for mother). The idea implicit in the word is that a man takes a woman in marriage so that he may have children by her. Calling a gay union a marriage is an insult to the ancient institution of marriage. The basic intention of our forefathers in creating the institution of marriage was to ensure moral discipline in society and to ensure proper care and development of children in a stable family and social environment.
Legalization of same sex marriage or decriminalizing homosexuality normalizes homosexual behavior and encourages it. Sexual perversions and deviations should remain under cover of darkness or behind closed door. There is no need to specifically proscribe homosexuality and make it a criminal offence.
At the same time, it is dangerous for a healthy family and society to encourage deviant sexual behaviour by recognizing gay marriage or encouraging homosexuality. Support for homosexuality is not universal either the world or in India. It has been banned recently in Russia. A high court in Australia has overturned a legislation permitting gay marriages in a part of that country.
The support in India is not universal. Media seems to support homosexuality, which is sad. Leaders of an election shocked Congress in search of votes has jumped to criticize the Supreme Court judgment but whether it will pay any dividends or will go against them in the next poll, only time will tell. BJP leaders are studiously silent for fear of offending their Hindu fundamentalist supporters.
Leaders of parties hoping for support of the Muslim electorate are also silent. Even the Aam Admi Party is silent. Sexual freedom both normal and deviant has been acceptable for the intellectuals and the elite. It is also acceptable in most areas of the US and Europe. It has never been appreciated by the ordinary citizens or the middle class society any where in the world. It is the Parliament and not the Supreme Court which passes or amends laws. Let the new Parliament take it up. Making the offence non-cognizable may meet the needs of all sections of the society.