By Ran Aubrey Frazier
Originally published on Advocate.com February 10 2014 8:08 PM ET
Scott Adams, creator of the satirical comic strip Dilbert, made headlines Friday when his popular series threw its support behind the LGBT community overseas. Rather than focusing his attention on Russia, which has dominated the media because of its hosting of the Olympics and its ban on so-called gay propaganda, Adams took India to task for its treatment of gays and lesbians.
In the three-panel strip, Dogbert observes that the Supreme Court of India "recently voted to uphold a law making it a crime to be born gay."* Adams uses an asterisk to drop a footnote within the panel, which reads "essentially." The Supreme Court ruling in question, handed down in December, held that a colonial-era British statute outlawing “carnal acts against the order of nature” was constitutional. Thus, while the ruling does not make it a crime to be gay, by birth or otherwise, as Dogbert's statement indicates, it does proscribe same-sex sexual intimacy. The court further held that changing the statute or removing it from the books was a matter for the Indian parliament, rather than something that could be changed by judicial fiat. A lower court had struck down the law in 2009, but the December Supreme Court ruling reinstated it.
In the second panel of Adams's comic strip, Dogbert blasts the court's decision as "hopelessly ignorant," before announcing that "Asok the intern is now officially gay." In the final panel, Asok jokes that he has “a lot of gay stuff to do.”
Several U.S. newspapers, including the San Jose Mercury News, refused to run the Dilbert strip, opting instead to rerun an older comic.
While perhaps not as timely as a strip about Russia might have been, Adams's comic points out that there is much work to be done to advance LGBT rights in many countries around the world, including in democratic nations such India. Last month, India's Supreme Court refused to reconsider the ruling, dismissing arguments from LGBT activists about the unconstitutionality of the holding. While prosecutions under the law are rare, there are reports of widespread discrimination, police harassment, and blackmail of LGBT people in India.