After winning a contest hosted by Chinese Internet companies, seven gay and lesbian couples from China got married in the Southern California gay capital of West Hollywood.
The “We Do” contest, hosted by Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba, which is also listed on the New York Stock Exchange, received applications from more than 2,000 couples. It was also sponsored by Blued, a social media application.
The finalists were selected after Internet users voted on their favorite couple based on videos the couples submitted chronicling their live stories. The weddings of six gay couples and one lesbian couple were officiated at a city library by West Hollywood Mayor Lindsey Horvath.
According to Reuters, Mayor Horvath said, “We’re so honored and happy to have them in West Hollywood. We’ve long been a community committed to equal rights for all people, and advancing and protecting the rights especially of our LGBT community.”
Same-sex marriages are recognized in California, which legalized gay marriages in 2013. However, the marriages will not be effectual in China, which despite legalizing homosexuality in 1997 does not allow gay marriages. Until 1997, homosexual people were punished in the Cultural Revolution era of 1966-1976 under a statute that forbid “hooliganism,” with gay sex being regarded as a criminal offense.
Li Yinhe, a Chinese sociologist and sexologist, said, “In the past, homosexuality, gambling and prostitution were all considered dirty subjects and not allowed in the media.”
Although the country has since become more sensitive towards homosexuality, the Chinese government currently is neutral in its stance: it neither promotes nor denounces it, as reported by Los Angeles Times.
According to BBC, Geng Le, CEO of Blued said, “The progress that’s been made in terms of gay rights, for want of a better word, in China has been astronomical.
“In fact, when Ireland recently voted on the same sex referendum, it was reported on the national media in China. So the progress has been pretty quick.”
Mayor Horvath, speaking in support of gay marriages, said, “I do believe that today’s occasion not only helps to demonstrates the love and commitment all couples share but to let those people who want to shut us down and take away the rights and privileges of these couples that we will not stop until all love can be celebrated equally under the law.”
Hu Zhidong and Liu Xin, one of the couples who got married at the event, first met at a party where they learned they shared the same birthday.
“We’ve been together for almost eight years, so we want to give each other a promise or a commitment for life,” Zhidong said.
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