”Nearly 200,000 people have appealed to the Chinese authorities to recognise same-sex marriage, in a month-long push sparked by a review of the country’s civil law provisions.
The country’s LGBT community and its supporters have been writing to legislators and leaving comments in favour of a change to China’s marriage laws during a public comment period which ended on Friday with more than 190,000 people responding.
Among them is Ling Gu, a lesbian from Wuhan in the central Chinese province of Hubei. All she wants is a marriage certificate. Ling and her partner have had their wedding photos taken and together run a real estate business. In all but the eyes of the law, they are a married couple.
In a post on WeChat, China’s popular messaging app, Ling said that if the laws ever changed, she and her partner would register their marriage immediately. “Without a marriage certificate, it’s like a mission we can never accomplish. A blank left in the puzzle of life,” Ling said.
Although same-sex marriage is not banned in China, there are no laws granting it legal status. The Chinese legal definition of marriage states that it is between one man and one woman. A review of the marriage and family section of the civil law reached its third and final stage last month.
In August, at a press conference outlining the latest civil law review, Zang Tiewei, spokesman of the Legislative Affairs Commission of China’s top legislative body, the National People’s Congress Standing Committee said the country’s current marital system was in line with Chinese tradition and culture, adding that most countries did not acknowledge same-sex marriage.
Yanzi, director of Guangzhou-based LGBT Rights Advocacy China, put out a call at the beginning of November when public submissions opened, hoping for at least 100,000 messages of support for marriage equality. To his surprise, the goal was reached within days.
Since then, hundreds of thousands have shared their love stories online, left messages on the civil law review website, while their parents have sent handwritten letters to legislators.
“We know that it’s already the third draft and they will probably not include same-sex marriage, but at least we want to let lawmakers hear there’s a need among the LGBT community,” Yanzi said.
It is not the first time activists have campaigned for China to embrace same-sex marriage, he said. For years, they have been advocating through publicity stunts, such as public weddings, as well as by lobbying legal experts and lawmakers.
Most people in China’s LGBT community remember the first same-sex marriage lawsuit in China, when Sun Wenlin tried to marry his boyfriend Hu Mingliang in 2015.
Sun and Hu had been in a relationship for a year, and Sun wanted to see whether they could get lucky and register to marry, even though there was no law granting legal status to homosexual couples.
They did not succeed. The office director who turned them down said, “If you came with a woman today, I would register you right away.” Sun replied that he didn’t like women, he liked men and wanted to marry Hu, to which the director responded, “You are so ridiculous”.
Sun took the case to court, claiming the director’s remarks were discriminatory. He lost the case, but has since devoted himself to activism.
In 2017, before China’s annual meeting of lawmakers in March, Sun started lobbying representatives. He got hold of a list of 113 phone numbers and started calling them one by one. When they answered, Sun introduced himself and said he wanted to talk about same-sex marriage. They would immediately hang up, so he followed up the calls with text messages.
According to Sun, after a month of texting, one representative finally met him for tea. It was a university science professor, who said he had met gay people when he studied abroad in the 1990s. He listened to Sun’s appeal carefully and signed his petition. Sun declined to name the professor due to the sensitivity of the issue.”