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A Court Has Just Thrown Out China's First Ever Gay Marriage Case

The case may have been dismissed but the fact a court heard it, and the publicity it has generated, is still being seen as a major step forward for gay rights in China.

by VICE News
Apr 13 2016, 12:10pm

Sun Wenlin and his partner Hu Mingliang leave the court in Changsha on April 13, 2016. Photo by Darwin Zhou/EPA

A judge hearing China's first ever gay marriage case took just a few hours to reject the plaintiffs' bid to have their union recognized on Wednesday.

The court in the city of Changsha threw out a suit filed by Sun Wenlin and Hu Mingliang against a local civil affairs bureau which had refused to issue them a marriage registration certificate. They argued that they should be allowed to marry as Chinese law does not explicitly ban same-sex marriage.

The fact that a district court agreed to hear the case at all as a first in China and there were cheers for the couple when they entered the court, reported the BBC.

Around 300 people turned up to show support and about 100 were allowed inside the courtroom as the case begun on Wednesday morning.

At lunchtime the judge announced he was dismissing the case. Sun, 27, told the Guardian he thought the decision had been made too quickly and the court had been "too cautious."

"We will continue to appeal," he said. "I think it is worthwhile. It catches people's attention and it will help our opinions spread," Sun said. "What we are trying to achieve is freedom and equality."

Related: China's Attitude Toward Homosexuality Is Beginning to Shift, with Parents Leading the Way

The case has been widely discussed on social media and despite the result has been seen as a step forward for LGBT rights in China, where there is widespread discrimination.

Homosexuality was decriminalized in 1997 and removed from the official list of mental disorders in 2001 but laws and regulations continue to define it as "abnormal," according to LGBT organization Outright International. Being transgender is still classed as a mental disorder.

Some psychiatrists still use electric shock therapy to try to "cure" gay patients, LGBT people suffer police harassment and arbitrary detention, and there are no anti-discrimination laws.

However progress is being made. Issues of sexuality are being discussed more than they ever have been, and two days before Sun and Hu's court appearance on Wednesday, there was a hearing in the country's first transgender discrimination case.

"It is a very amazing time for us right now," leading gay rights activist John Shen told the Guardian. "One year ago we couldn't have imagined such things in China. It is very inspiring." said Shen. "Last year, if you'd have asked me [when China would allow gay marriage] I would have said maybe 20 years. Today I think maybe it will come a little sooner."

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