Sometimes you have to cross an ocean for love. On Tuesday, seven gay couples from China got married in West Hollywood, the LGBT capital of Southern California. While China's attitude toward its gay community has become more open in recent years, the country still does not allow gay marriage, which is why these couples traveled to the United States.
Couples cried with happiness as they announced "I do" in both English and Mandarin and exchanged wedding rings. There was one lesbian couple, who both wore white. The seven couples were winners of a contest sponsored by Alibaba, China's e-commerce giant (a sort of Amazon-meets-eBay) that provides an online marketplace for people and companies to sell their products. More than 2,000 couples submitted videos detailing their love stories, and online users voted for their top 10 favorites. Three couples who also won the contest were unable to travel because of visa issues, according to BuzzFeed News.
West Hollywood Mayor Lindsey Horvath officiated the wedding and welcomed the couples from traveling so far to declare their love.
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.
China's stance on gay marriage is complicated, and the LGBT movement there has only recently taken hold. The country decriminalized homosexuality in 1997 and removed it from its list of mental illnesses in 2001. China does not recognize gay marriages so these couples' marriages won't be considered legal at home. The government has a resigned attitude toward the LGBT community — so long as you don't incite political protests, you're generally left alone. In fact, the biggest pressure comes from families that fear losing their family line. There is, after all, still the country's one-child policy.
But the marriages represent a new possibility for the country. The highly publicized marriages were shared on Chinese social media, and the stories will continue once the couples return home. The ceremony is also new kind of cross-cultural relationship between the United States and China. Groom Hu Zhidong told BuzzFeed News he hopes to see the roles reversed some day.
It's hard to imagine now, but maybe several years later, American couples will go to get married in China too.