The Slatest

Court Allows What’s Thought to Be China’s First Lawsuit Demanding Same-Sex Marriage Rights

Gay couples kiss during a ceremonial “wedding” in March 2011 to raise awareness of the issue of same-sex marriage.

Photo by STR/AFP/Getty Images

A Chinese court on Tuesday said it would allow what is reported to be the first lawsuit seeking marriage rights for same-sex couples in the country. A 26-year-old man, Sun Wenlin, filed the suit last month challenging local Hunan province officials’ denial of his same-sex marriage application to wed his 36-year-old partner. “I think from a legal point of view, we should be successful,” Sun told Reuters. “Our marriage law says there is the freedom to marry and gender equality. These words can be applied to same-sex marriage.”

In his complaint, Sun says the law states marriage is between a husband and wife, not necessarily between a man and a woman. “A husband and a wife can be understood in terms of both relationship and identity,” Sun told the Wall Street Journal in December, explaining why same-sex marriage is legally permissible. “In terms of relationship, two people who have no blood ties can form a family.”

Before 1997, homosexuality was a crime in China and it was classified as a mental disorder until 2001. These days Chinese norms are increasingly tolerant of homosexuality, but, Reuters notes, “while homosexuality is not illegal in China, and large cities have thriving gay scenes, same-sex marriage is not legal and same-sex couples have no legal protections.”

“Sun’s complaint comes amid a push among China’s gay and lesbian community to gain acceptance in the country,” according to the Journal.

In November, the gay dating app Blued, which now has more than three million daily active users, said it is considering an initial public offering. In February, Alibaba Group Holding held a contest where 10 same-sex couples won an all-expenses paid wedding ceremony and honeymoon in California. At the time, the company said it hoped the contest would foster “respect and understanding of homosexuality.”

A ruling in the case is expected within six months.