A court in Central China's Hunan province has accepted a case of two homosexuals who sued the government agency for not allowing them to register their marriage.
It may be the first time in the country that a same-sex couple is seeking the right to marry through legal means.
One of the men, surnamed Sun, and his boyfriend went to the marriage registration office under the civil affairs bureau of Changsha's Furong district in June but were refused by the office staff who said the laws did not allow gay marriage.
"They told me that only a man and a woman can get married. But in my understanding, 'husband and wife' not only refers to a man and a woman, but also two males or two females. Laws that permit gay marriage are considered nondiscriminatory," Sun said.
Shi Fulong, the attorney for the couple, said that in view of the uniqueness of the lawsuit, it should go down in history whether Sun and his boyfriend win or lose.
"Marriage is one of the fundamental human rights, and such rights of gay and lesbian people should also be protected. But people hardly care," Shi said.
"Some countries have provided legal recognition of same-sex couples in recent years. Maybe it's too early in China to yearn for legal changes, but the lawsuit can serve as a beginning to raise public attention and propel changes," he said.
Homosexuals account for roughly 4 percent of China's population, according to Li Yinhe, the country's best known sexologist.
Liu Junjie, a partner at the Shanghai branch of Dacheng Law Offices, believed Sun and his boyfriend will undoubtedly lose the case. "There is no basis for their suit in substantive law," he said.
Sun and his boyfriend submitted materials to the court in mid-December requesting an order that the civil affairs bureau's response was an administrative error.
By Zhou Wenting in Shanghai and Feng Zhiwei in Changsha (China Daily)
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