A court in Henan province has just accepted its first same-sex marriage case, filed by a gay Chinese man against a local civil bureau for the right to marry his boyfriend.
Advocates claim that even the acceptance of this case is a leap forward for LGBT rights in China, and, if passed, could signal a "watershed moment" for the legalization of gay marriage in future.
26-year-old Changsha-native Sun Wenlin (believed to be a pseudonym) lodged the case earlier this month after officials denied his marriage license request last June at the Furong district civil affairs bureau. He claims officials rejected his request citing that the definition of marriage in China is between a "husband and wife."
Sun on the other hand argues that it doesn't specify that it must be between a man and a woman, and that a freedom and gender equality clause in the law can be "interpreted to incorporate same-sex couples," since the technical definition is that "two people who have no blood ties can form a family."
Homosexuality in China is not illegal, but until as recently as 2001 it was categorized as a 'mental disorder,' and official stances remain frosty if not openly prohibitive. However, a slight shift in attitudes has been noted since the United States Supreme Court ruling in favor of same-sex marriages, and human rights advocates believe that further acceptance could well be in the pipeline.
Maya Wang, a China researcher at NGO Human Rights Watch claims that the court's decision to even accept the case is evidence of this shift in attitudes, “Courts often reject politically sensitive cases," she told the Independent, "so the fact that the lawsuit is accepted signals some official willingness to address discrimination against LGBT people, which is encouraging.”
Mr. Sun remains defiantly optimistic on the outcome of the case, and has vowed a return to submit his marriage request next year should the motion be rejected. Sun's legal consultant, who wished only to be known as Ding, anticipates the court's deciding verdict within six months. Stay tuned for more updates.
[Image via the Associated Press]