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lgbt rights

China just heard its first same-sex marriage case — and ruled against it

In the first case of its kind in China, a judge has ruled against a same-sex couple seeking to get married, claiming that the right is specific to between men and women, The Los Angeles Times reports. The plaintiff, Sun Wenlin, 27, sued a civil affairs bureau in Changsha last June for refusing to let him marry his boyfriend, Hu Mingliang, 37.

"The relevant regulations and law clearly stated the subject of marriage refers to a man and a woman who meet the legal conditions of marriage. Sun Wenlin and Hu Mingliang are both men, therefore their application doesn't comply with the marriage regulations and law," a court statement posted online said.

Sun resisted the ruling, telling The New York Times, "The fact that marriage between a man and a woman is legal does not suggest that marriage between two men is illegal. This is illogical. I asked them to name one article that explicitly bans marriage between two men, but they never answered my question directly."

The ruling came as a surprise to almost no one, yet marked a major step forward as it was the first time a Chinese court had agreed to hear such a lawsuit and both Sun and Hu received an outpouring of support outside the courthouse and online.

China stopped classifying homosexuality as a mental illness in 2001, but there is still a significant stigma and openly gay couples are rare. Police pressured Sun to drop the case in December, telling him "marriage is for reproduction."

"Inside China, we still live a life like this. We can't get married, and we suffer discrimination," Sun said.