Does China’s First Same-Sex Marriage Lawsuit Have A Chance?

Does China’s First Same-Sex Marriage Lawsuit Have A Chance?

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This post is also available in: 繁體中文

For the first time ever in the People’s Republic of China, a man has gone to court to fight for same-sex marriage.

Sun Wenlin* (not pictured above) first applied for a marriage license for himself and his partner on June 23 in the Furong district of Changsha, the capital of Hunan province. Alas, a government official rejected the application, saying that “only one man and one woman” can marry.

Sun later told state-run Global Times:

The original text of the marriage law does not say one man and one woman, but a husband and a wife. I personally believe that this term refers not only to heterosexual couples but also to same-sex couples, to gay men and lesbians. The law is not discriminatory.

Sun filed the lawsuit on December 16. Legal regulations dictate that the court must decide whether or not to accept the case within a week. The deadline has passed, but as of yet there hasn’t been any news announcing the court’s decision either way.

The court has been dragging its feet regarding the case since the beginning. Global Times reports,

Sun said that a court official also initially refused to accept his case documents, again saying that only a man and a woman can be married based on the marriage law. The official only “reluctantly” accepted the case after Sun threatened to file a complaint, and the official did not give Sun a written confirmation to prove that the case had been filed.

According to Shi Fulong, Sun’s lawyer, that official’s actions go against the new system of regulations to ease filing procedure launched by the Supreme People’s Court on May 1, requiring courts to accept cases immediately as long as they meet certain basic requirements.

Unfortunately, China’s legal system has a less-than-stellar record regarding adherence to official regulations and things are not great for human rights lawyers, labor organizers, and other political activists right now.

The Chinese government’s attitude toward same-sex marriage is negative, judging by editorials in state-run media. Government-approved textbooks still list homosexuality as a form of mental illness, and the country’s new domestic violence law does not include protections for people in same-sex couples.

Still, the fight for same-sex marriage is well underway in China. Li Tingting (one of five feminists detained last March for planning a protest against sexual harassment on public transportation) and her partner Teresa Xu got married last July, and other LGBT couples are tying the knot whether the government recognizes it or not.

And Sun is not ready to give up his fight any time soon. He plans to appeal to a higher court if the Furong district does not accept his case.

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