September 16, 2020
China might end up getting equality faster than anyone would have thought. This happened after the public called for it in huge numbers.
In 2019, China’s top legislative body allowed the public to make suggestions for an updated draft of China’s Civil Code. And there were loads of submissions by the Chinese people. There were nearly 200,000 feedbacks sent in just one month.
However, LGBTQ+ activists and the government were extremely surprised by the suggestions. There were over 190,000 of them that had made the same proposal. Which was to legalize same-sex marriages
Jiang Junjie’s story
The 26-year-old planned to visit his parents in the southern city of Chaozhou. Chaozhou is 350 kilometers from his home in Shenzen. He had also planned to bring home his boyfriend.
This was the first time Jiang’s partner was meeting his family. The young engineer had a lot riding on the outcome. It is a big gesture to bring home a partner in China. It is often the sign that says the couple is ready to tie the knot one day.
The last time he had told his parents, it had all gone wrong. His father had told him to never come home again. However, his mother had said nothing.
But Jiang managed to change his parents’ minds. Surprisingly with the help of an unexpected ally: the Chinese government.
Promoting same-sex marriage in China
Chinese officials have been reluctant to address LGBTQ+ issues in the past. However, the result has been overwhelming. The officials have now publicly acknowledged that legalizing gay marriage has popular support.
The co-founder of iFamily, Sun Wenlin, promotes same-sex marriages in China. iFamily is a non-governmental organization. Sun emphasizes the significance of same-sex marriage when speaking to Chinese site Sixth Tone.
Sun says, “As far as I know, never in the history of Chinese legislation have so many people put forward so many opinions on one law.”
There were others who have been taking this to court as well. In 2015, Hu Mingliang and his partner took the same matter to court but the government ended up winning. They have been campaigning for this since the time they were refused permission to get married.
However, the two have been married in a symbolic private ceremony. They work to normalize same-sex marriage in China.
Now the government greeted the idea with neither support nor opposition. Sun said it was a lot more positive.
Liberating same-sex marriage for 1.4 Billion people
There is a significant change in China.
Officials have been clear they oppose marriage equality in the past. For example, in August 2019, Zang Tiewei said, “Male-female marriages are consistent with our country’s national circumstances, history, and culture.” There are a few countries except China that legalized marriage immediately. However, things are starting to change.
Gao Bo, the organizer of PFLAG which is a nonprofit organization added, “We’ve been walking in the dark. Even if there’s just one star above our heads, we feel very bright and hopeful.”
He hopes to unite and organize the LGBTQ+ community. They are just waiting for the government to indicate a positive attitude towards equal marriage. Once that happened the organization will be ready to seize the opportunity.
If and when China says yes, it will be the biggest moment for marriage equality. This would be after the first same-sex wedding in Amsterdam at midnight on 1 April 2001. There have been other countries that have followed since then. But China’s population of 1.4 billion is more than any other nation that has same-sex marriage.
This is one reason why LGBTQ+ community advocates are pleased.
It is very hard to come out in a culture that puts so much importance on family duty. However, it makes it easier with the fact that the government and the public are softening towards LGBTQ+ rights.
Support for equal marriage
China is behind most western countries in some LGBTQ+ rights. They have no anti-discrimination laws to protect employees or consumers. They also don’t have a legal right to freedom of expression.
On the other hand, it had a de-facto ban on gay cures or conversion therapies. Moreover, only a handful of countries do so.
Since 2017, Chinese law has allowed adults to appoint their guardians by mutual agreement. That means that same-sex partners can appoint each other as guardians. This way they can maintain their rights and interests.
In December, a Chinese news site ifeng.com held polling. 10 Million people responded out of which 66 percent favored legalizing same-sex marriage.
The result was so strong that homophobic Chinese Christians became angry and worried. Furthermore, they started to mobilize opposition on social media. They are likely to be the main enemies of progress for the LGBTQ+community. Taiwan was the first Asian country to make same-sex marriage possible. And the Chinese Christians were the main opponents in Taiwan.
What’s more, China can look to its highly LGBTQ+ inclusive myths and history to support equal rights. They were the ones who gave us gay emperors, dragons and even a rabbit god to oversee same-sex relationships.