China hints it may open the door to same-sex marriage

In a photo taken on April 13, 2016, Sun Wenlin (right) and his partner Hu Mingliang leave the court after a judge ruled against them in China's first gay marriage case in Changsha, Hunan. PHOTO: AP

BEIJING (BLOOMBERG) - China's top legislative body has been advised to legalise same-sex marriage in the updated civil code, The Global Times reported on Friday (Dec 20).

The Commission for Legislative Affairs of the National People's Congress Standing Committee has received more than 237,000 online suggestions and 5,600 letters requesting to clarify the "scope of close relatives, improving the common debt of spouses and legalising same-sex marriage", according to the report, which cited Mr Yue Zhongming, spokesman for the commission.

The report didn't specify if the legislature will include the legalisation of same-sex marriage in the civil code. The NPC will review the draft of the new civil code in March 2020, according to its website.

Several government-related Weibo accounts, including those of two district news offices in Shanghai and a court in Chengdu, posted online polls on Friday seeking public feedback on same-sex marriage.

Mr Zhijun Hu, executive director of PFLAG China, a group supporting LGBT people, said he was "very happy" about the move towards marriage equality.

"I'm confident that this will bring change," he said, referring to the news on Friday.

Still, Mr Hu said he doesn't expect same-sex marriage in China to happen any time soon.

"I'm not sure if Chinese society is ready now," he said, adding that it could take as long as 15 years.

"People need time to know these issues and know LGBT people," he said.

Although China decriminalised homosexuality in 1997 and removed it from an official list of mental disorders in 2001, gay, lesbian, and transsexual individuals still live in a gray area.

There's no law against being LGBT, but no rules protect against discrimination, and China doesn't recognise gay marriage.

Taiwan, an island that Beijing sees as a breakaway province, was the first in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage when it did so in May.

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