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China Rejects Same-Sex Marriage, Says Only Heterosexual Unions ‘Suit Country’s Condition’

Homosexuality is not a crime in the country but conversion therapy and persecution are rampant.

by Pallavi Pundir
22 August 2019, 8:10am

Zhang Yi (L) carries Hai Bei as the same-sex couple pose for their wedding photographs at Qianmen street on Valentine's Day in Beijing February 14, 2009. For some in Beijing's gay and lesbian community, Valentine's Day is not just a day to celebrate loving relationships but also an ideal time to campaign for same-sex marriages and the acceptance of homosexuality in China. Photo via REUTERS/Jason Lee

The spokesman of China’s Parliament has confirmed that the country will continue to support only heterosexual unions, and nothing more. According to reports, Zang Tiewei, the spokesman for Parliament’s legal affairs commission, claims only heterosexual marriage “suits our country’s national condition and historical and cultural traditions”. He told Reuters, “As far as I know, the vast majority of countries in the world do not recognise the legalisation of same-sex marriage.”

The statement came on August 21 after being asked by the media whether it will follow Taiwan passing same-sex marriage legislation. In May, Taiwanese lawmakers passed a bill that validates same-sex marriages, which had reportedly brought some hope for gay couples in mainland China. While there are no laws banning or criminalising same-sex relations, the country still permits conversion therapy designed to “cure” homosexuality, and, until 2001, even listed homosexuality as a mental disorder. Despite the LGBTQ activism scene thriving in China, the community is publicly shunned, censored and restricted. At the same time, though, Taiwan legalising same-sex marriage had brought in fears from many mainlanders, who worried that this might “mislead children about the idea of marriage”.

That aside, Taiwan and China have historically had a complicated relationship, where China views the island state as a breakaway province while Taiwan considers itself as a sovereign state. But the Chinese LGBTQ activists and groups have apparently followed Taiwan’s example, with some even travelling to the island to learn from the civil society groups there.

Recent reports from China also observe a rising trend of same-sex couples naming their partners as their legal guardians since guardianship laws there do not single out gays and lesbians. This move is also seen by some as an alternative to obtaining a marriage license.

Activists in China, however, are working on amendments to a draft civil code en masse, parts of which concern same-sex marriages. The code also affects laws around sexual harassment, divorce and family planning. However, Tiewei, on Wednesday, maintained that the marriage section of the draft civil code only maintains the bond between heterosexual couples.

Tiewei’s comment sparked reactions from the LGBTQ community. Chinese gay activist Sun Wenlin, whose application to legally marry his partner was rejected by the Chinese court three years ago, told Reuters, “I feel that my partner and I are sacrificing our happiness for the country’s legal system.”

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