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FUZHOU - A public gay wedding held in East China's Fujian province earlier this month reflects growing tolerance for homosexuality, according to sociologists and gay rights activists.
Lu Zhong, 24, and his partner Liu Wangqiang, 20, held a high-profile wedding ceremony on October 2 in Zherong county in the city of Ningde.
The ceremony, reportedly the first of its kind in Fujian, was attended by around 60 friends and relatives. The event also attracted thousands of local residents.
"We just want to form a family and maintain a long-term relationship," Lu said.
Lu and Liu's marriage is not legally recognized in China, where homosexuality has long been taboo.
The wedding, however, did cause a stir on Sina Weibo, a popular microblogging site, after Lu announced the news. Some netizens criticized the couple, but many showed support.
Sociologists and gay rights activists said the courageous and controversial move was justified, adding that the wedding reflects society's growing inclusiveness.
"The wedding shows that Chinese society has become more open-minded and tolerant of homosexuality and gay marriage," said Li Yinhe, a sexologist from Beijing.
She said the sexual revolution in the West has made Chinese people more tolerant of homosexuality in their own country.
"Traditionally, gay men will marry women to hide their sexual orientation, which in many cases brings a lot of pain to the family," said Xiao Tie, a program director at the Beijing LGBT Center, an organization that provides social services and advocacy programs for local lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities.
"By marrying in public, the couple made a public declaration that they want to be like everyone else in our society," the activist said.
Their marriage will help the rest of society to get to know and better understand the gay community, she added.
"I think it sets a very good example for China's gay community, " said Zhang Beichuan, a renowned sexologist.
But Zhang also voiced concerns.
"Gay people are still discriminated against in many aspects of our society, partly because the general public do not know the gay community very well," said Zhang.
"In addition, traditional Chinese culture defines a marriage as being between a man and a woman. When two men marry, it is regarded as immoral," Zhang added.
"As gay people, what we need is respect and understanding. I hope people will get to know us better. Discrimination should never be a choice," Lu said.