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Indian chief minister hailed for rejecting same-sex marriage

Neiphiu Rio slammed the opposition Congress party's promise to ensure marriage rights for the LGBTQIA+ community
Members of the LGBTQIA+ community take part in the 11th annual Pride March in Bangalore on Dec. 9, 2018. India's Supreme Court decriminalized homosexuality in 2018

Members of the LGBTQIA+ community take part in the 11th annual Pride March in Bangalore on Dec. 9, 2018. India's Supreme Court decriminalized homosexuality in 2018. (Photo: AFP)

Published: April 23, 2024 11:46 AM GMT
Updated: April 24, 2024 03:56 AM GMT

A Church group in India’s northeast has welcomed a politician rejecting a poll promise of the Congress party that pledged marriage rights for the LGBTQIA+ community if voted into power.

The Nagaland Baptist Church Council (NBCC), an influential Church group in north-eastern India, has consistently denounced the LGBTQIA lifestyle.

Same-sex “is a sin according to Biblical teachings,” Reverend Zelhou Keyho, general secretary of the NBCC, told UCA News on April 23.

The group was supporting Neiphiu Rio, chief minister of Christian-majority Nagaland state, who, during a campaign rally in neighboring Manipur state on April 21, said that same-sex marriage “is not acceptable.”

Rio and his Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party are alliance partners of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party. 

Rio was referring to the opposition Congress party’s manifesto, which said, “After wide consultation, Congress will bring a law to recognize civil unions between couples belonging to the LGBTQIA+ community,”

“It is not our tradition. It is not a Christian habit. It is not Christian values,” Rio said while campaigning for Kachui Timothy Zimik in the Outer Manipur Parliamentary Constituency.

Christians, mostly Baptists, account for 87 percent of Nagaland’s 2.2 million people.

Rio said, “When the law recognizes these groups, it will affect the children's future, and there will be no system.”

Manipur has two parliament seats and polls in the strife-torn state are divided into two phases.  Outer Manipur goes to polls on April 26.

“We welcome the stand” of Rio regarding the LGBTQIA+ community. However, Keyho said the NBCC is “not against the people who struggle with the LGBTQIA+ lifestyle."

Starting April 19, Indians will vote for 541 seats in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of parliament. Approximately 970 million people out of a population of 1.4 billion are eligible to cast their vote.

Among the registered voters are over 48,000 transgender people, identified for the first time in such an exercise. The seven-phased polls will end on June 1 and results will be declared on June 4.

James Valiath, a program manager at the Naz Foundation, which in 2009 moved India's top court into ruling that the criminalization of homosexuality was unconstitutional, said Indians still consider same-sex attraction as taboo.

Hailing the Congress manifesto, Valiath said Rio was trying to gain political mileage by speaking against the LGBTQIA+ community.

In 2018, the Supreme Court decriminalized homosexuality.

Valiath said, “Even after the judgment, people still have reservations.”

In October 2023, the top court declined to grant legal recognition to same-sex marriages, drawing criticism from LGBTQIA+ rights activists, who dubbed the verdict “regressive.”

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