China has embarked upon its first same-sex marriage lawsuit in a move that has been hailed as a step forward for LGBT rights in the country
Sun Wenlin, 26, took his case to a court in Changsha, Hunan province, on Tuesday and had his case accepted.
Sun remarked that he filed the lawsuit after his attempt to register a marriage with his 36-year-old boyfriend was rejected by an official in the Furong district who said that marriage had to be between a man and a woman.
"I think from a legal point of view, we should be successful," Sun said. "Our marriage law says there is the freedom to marry and gender equality. These words can be applied to same-sex marriage," he told the South China Morning Post.
Sun's lawyer, surnamed Ding, said the case would be heard within six months.
The fact that the case was accepted by the courts has been heralded as significant by LGBT and human rights groups. Activists have noted that it may well lead to more such cases.
"In China, courts often reject politically sensitive cases, so the fact that the lawsuit is accepted signals some official willingness to address discrimination against LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people, which is encouraging," said Maya Wang, a China researcher at New York-based group Human Rights Watch.
While homosexuality is not illegal in China, same-sex marriage is not legal and LGBT have no legal protections against discrimination. China is becoming more tolerant of homosexuality, having been removed from a list of mental disorders in 2001 and large cities often boasting LGBT communities.