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Court in China dismisses its first same-sex marriage lawsuit

Posted April 19

A judge in China has thrown out the first same-sex marriage lawsuit filed in the country. He based his dismissal on grounds that marriage law applies only to couples comprised of a man and a woman, a Vox news report said.

Sun Wenlin and Hu Mingliang sued a civil affairs office in the Hunan province after their marriage application was turned down last summer.

"For many in China, Sun and Hu's case was sign of changing tides in a country where LGBTQ issues have been gaining traction — being gay or lesbian was decriminalized in 1997 (although it was listed as a mental illness until 2001)," wrote Vox's Tara Golshan.

She quoted the international human rights organization OutRight Action International, writing "China has taken a 'not encouraging, not discouraging, and not promoting' stance to LGBTQ issues, as the government has remained largely silent on the subject."

Pew Research Center maintains a summary of gay marriage laws worldwide. Published in June, it said gay marriage has been legal in The Netherlands since 2000, followed by Belgium in 2003. Other countries that allow same-sex marriage are Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, England/Wales, Finland, France, Greenland, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Scotland, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, United States and Uruguay. It is also permitted in some jurisdictions in Mexico, Pew reported.

"Though it was dismissed by the court in Changsha, China's first legal challenge to a law limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples has galvanized many of the hundreds of young Chinese gay rights supporters who gathered at the courthouse, some of them waving small rainbow flags," The Associated Press reported. "The hearing's sizable public turnout and coverage by usually conservative Chinese media appeared to reflect early signs of shifting social attitudes in China on the topic of sexual orientation."

NPR reported that "the same-sex marriage case has received significant coverage in China's state-run press. The official newspaper People's Daily tweeted an image of Sun and Hu holding hands after the ruling." It also noted that "Sun reportedly had been pressured to abandon his legal challenge. As (NPR) reported in January, Sun told the Global Times that the police came to his house." He said the officer kept telling him "it is important to have a child to carry on one's family name."

Email: lois@deseretnews.com, Twitter: Loisco

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