Engaged for over three years, Guo and Zhu are fed up waiting for Chinese lawmakers to approve same-sex marriage – instead, they have turned online to gain recognition for their relationship.
Despite a shake-up of China’s marriage law last month – and a groundswell of support for same-sex unions in the socially conservative country – demands to make gay marriage legal have not been met.
The two men joined thousands of other couples announcing their “wedding” through an app where same-sex couples are given an unrecognised marriage certificate to share with friends, colleagues, and the public.
“We can’t live in the shadows anymore,” artist Guo told AFP, using only his surname.
“My partner’s family is still coming to terms with it.”
In China only couples who have tied the knot can adopt children, access fertility services or jointly buy a house.
Legalising gay marriage was among top suggestions made by the public last year when lawmakers sought opinions on the country’s first-ever civil code.
But a dismayed LGBT+ community has been left to redraw their battle plans after the text of the code – which governs everything from property contracts to adoption – defined marriage as “a union between a man and a woman”.
“I feel very disappointed,” said activist Sun Wenlin, who filed China’s first – and unsuccessful – court case to marry a same-sex partner in 2015.
After the civil code legislation was approved, Sun launched his WeChat “wedding” app to raise the profile of gay relationships. More than 3,000 couples have used it so far to get the unrecognised marriage certificates.
“We’ve been together for over a decade … but we can’t take leave to take care of our sick partner or their parents the way straight couples can,” Guo said.
“The right to marry is a recognition that same-sex relationships are equally important.”