Shah officially opened the Arranged Gay Marriage Bureau in 2015. She recently told NBC News that her goal was to find her clients “a compatible partner, husband, wife or best friend forever.”
The 24-year-old Shah, who is straight, said she came up with the idea for her business while in grad school when she worked with a project focused on helping transgender people find employment.
“I met a group of homosexuals over 30 years of age who wanted to settle down but were unable to find like-minded partners,” she recalled to NBC News. “Dating sites, they said, were only good for hookups.”
According to Shah, her service currently has 2,400 subscribers, the majority of whom are based in India. She and her staff screen each applicant to see if they meet their criteria of being financially independent and looking for a long term, monogamous relationship. All potential matches must also be at least 24 years old, because Shah believes that younger people may not be ready for a serious commitment. Applicants are also asked the usual matchmaking questions about their goals, personalities and preferences.
Though the much-protested Section 377 of India’s Penal Code criminalizes sexual relationships between same-sex couples, marriages remain in a legal gray area, noted Shah.
“Technically, it’s not legal or illegal. So people can get married according to Hindu, Christian ceremonies or whatever community they belong to,” she told The Print in March. “But they won’t get any marriage certificate or rights.” Despite that, many of Shah’s India-based clients want to have marriage ceremonies to symbolize their commitment.
YourStory reports that the Arranged Gay Marriage Bureau has facilitated 21 marriages so far. Several more couples are living together in commited partnerships.
“Abroad, 21 couples of mixed ethnicity are either married or engaged,” Shah told YourStory in March. “Six couples comprise NRI partners; four couples have legally married.”
One such couple is the Mumbai-based Vancouver-based Tanmay, who were profiled by NBC News. The bureau introduced the two over email and they talked for five months online before meeting in person. Both credit Shah’s work for bringing them together.
“I’m so introverted that had I met Tanmay separately, there was no chance I would have even spoken to him,” said Amar.
The couple married last fall and Amar is currently making plans to move to Canada.