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Is this China’s chance for marriage equality?

Is this China’s chance for marriage equality?

Sun Wenlin is fighting for marriage equality in China (Photo: Provided)

Sun Wenlin wants the government of China to change its civil code and recognize same-sex marriage.

Sun, from China’s Hunan Province, launched an online campaign this month to encourage the National People’s Congress (NPC) to discuss equal marriage. His hashtags have been viewed more than 70 million times on China’s social media.

The NPC is taking public consultation on Civil Code changes until 3 November. Sun has also called more than 100 NPC deputies. He said 90 per cent hung up on him as soon as they heard him say ‘same-sex marriage’.

In 2015, Sun famously took the government to court for denying his application to marry his boyfriend.

Gay Star News spoke to Sun about his latest campaign and why he wants to bring marriage equality to China.

Why did you launch the social media campaign to have the NPC change the civil code?

I launched the campaign because I think I have to make use of every bit of time as an activist. I’ve been following the Civil Code Draft for two years and I met some scholars who drafted the Civil Code before I launched the campaign. Most of them think we should first make cohabitation legal, regardless of the sex of the cohabitating persons, but I prefer marriage, so I hope the NPC would directly amend the Civil Code Draft to institutionalize same-sex marriage, or we may say, make the Civil Code Draft gender neutral.

What reactions have you had?

I launched a petition for institutionalizing same-sex marriage on March last year during China’s Two Sessions and around 8,000 signatures had been collected before I told netizens about the Civil Code this September. I launched this petition again and the latest number is 31,223. I also made two hashtags on Weibo, which is similar to Twitter. One of the hashtags is # 民法典同性婚姻#( #Civil Code Same-Sex Marriage#), the other one is #同婚法制化联署#(#Petition for Institutionalizing Same-Sex Marriage#, both of them were respectively viewed over 70 million times.

How successful do you think it will be and how do you think it the public consultations will be received by NPC?

I don’t think there is going to be any real progress at present, because I got more than 100 phone numbers of the NPC deputies and I made phone calls to them all. Over 90% of them didn’t want to talk about same-sex marriage with me and just hung up on me when they heard the word ‘same-sex marriage’. They are too homophobic, but I think we have to keep talking.

Were you at all influenced by equal marriage moves in the region?

I know there is real progress in these regions, but I feel on the issue of same-sex marriage, it is the USA that has the greatest influence on China, because I have read a lot of Chinese essays about same-sex marriage in the USA, instead of Australia, Taiwan, Thailand or other regions. As for me, every region institutionalizing same-sex marriage is good news.

How has your personal journey informed this latest move?

I was one of the plaintiffs of the first same-sex marriage lawsuit. Since then, I have been advocating institutionalizing same-sex marriage, the court thinks it is the law that not allows us to register our marriage, so I think we have to change the law. I advocate same-sex marriage almost every day because it’s my life. The court didn’t recognize our marriage [in 2016], that’s why I keep advocacy.

Do you have a lot of support in pursuing LGBTI rights?

My family and friends all support me to fight for rights, and my mother even created an NGO in our city Changsha to help improve relationships between LGBTI and their families. My mother told me most parents would finally accept their children are LGBTI, but there is a process, just like persuading the society to accept institutionalizing same-sex marriage. She is more optimistic about it than I am. When the apartment decoration is finished, we will move in together, and I think we can do something together.

What is the situation for LGBTI rights in China at the moment?

To my limited observation, I think the state of LGBTI rights in China is bad, for example, if transgender people want to perform an operation to change the sex, they have to do it with parental consent according to the law. I think the transgender movement is very important in China, because there are still a lot of Chinese people thinking that a man should be like a man, and a woman should be like a woman, for example, they think a man should marry a woman, so he is a real man. I believe the transgender movement will subvert this idea.

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