NEW DELHI — Utkarsh Saxena and Ananya Kotia’s love story began just like any other college romance. Except no one else knew about the gay couple’s relationship.

It was 2008. Homosexuality was yet to gain a degree of acceptance in deeply conservative India, with many gay couples facing stigma and isolation. So Saxena and Kotia took their time, watching from a distance how people’s acceptance of homosexuality was changing.

“We were actually quite scared about the consequences,” said Saxena, a public policy scholar at the University of Oxford. “We were very fragile and vulnerable, a young couple figuring out ourselves, and didn’t want, you know, something as drastic as this to break us in some sense.”

Over the years, as Indian society became more accepting of homosexuality and much of the country’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community began celebrating their sexuality openly, the couple decided to make their relationship known to their friends and family. Most of them were accepting.

Now, 15 years into their relationship, they have set out for a bigger challenge and filed a petition to India’s Supreme Court that seeks the legalization of same-sex marriage. Three other gay couples have filed similar petitions that will be heard by the country’s top court in March.

If legalized, India would become the second economy in Asia after Taiwan to recognize same-sex marriage, a significant right for the country’s LGBTQ community more than four years after the top court decriminalized gay sex. A favorable ruling would also make India the biggest democracy with such rights for LGBTQ couples but run counter to the ruling Hindu nationalist government’s position, which opposes same-sex marriages. (AP)