Recognition of same-sex unions in China
|Legal recognition of
China recognizes neither same-sex marriage nor civil unions. A poll conducted in 2009 showed that over 30% of the Beijing population supports same-sex marriage, while the rest were unsure or opposed. China does not have any same-sex union recognition laws, Beijing and Hong Kong currently provide dependent residency status to the same-sex partners of legal residents, such as expats.
"First" same-sex marriage
On January 13, 2010, China Daily published a front-page splash photo of a Chinese couple, Zeng Anquan, a divorced architect aged 45, and Pan Wenjie, a demobilized PLA soldier aged 27, being married at a gay bar in Chengdu. The marriage is understood as having no legal basis in the country, and the families of both men reacted negatively to the news of the marriage.
The Marriage Law of the People's Republic of China explicitly defines marriage as the union between one man and one woman. No other form of civil union is recognized.
Li Yinhe (Chinese: 李银河), a sexology scholar well known in the Chinese gay community, proposed Chinese Same-Sex Marriage Bill (Chinese: 中国同性婚姻提案) as an amendment to the marriage law to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference in 2003, 2005, 2006 and 2008. All four proposals failed because she was unable to find enough cosponsors for a placement on the agenda. Li Yinhe, however, pledged to "continue proposing the bill until it is passed". In 2008, supports for homosexual rights launched a campaign to collect signatures calling for recognition of same-sex marriage. In 2012 Li Yinhe launched a new campaign to raise support for same sex marriage legislation.
In addition to national recognition, there have been unsuccessful attempts made towards allowing same-sex marriage in the provinces. In early 2010, lawyer Zhu Lieyu submitted a plan to the Guangdong People's Congress in an attempt to legalize same-sex unions in the province, however the bill was never carried to a vote.
The attitude of the Chinese government towards homosexuality is believed to be "three nos": "No approval; no disapproval; no promotion." The Ministry of Health officially removed homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses in 2001, but same-sex marriage is still not considered. A government spokesperson, when asked about Li Yinhe's gay marriage proposal, said that same-sex marriage was still too "ahead of time" for China. He argued that same-sex marriage was not recognized even in many Western countries, which are considered much more liberal in social issues than China. This statement is understood as an implication that the government may consider recognition of same-sex marriage in the long run, but not in the near future.
In addition, the Chinese government requires parents adopting children from China to be in heterosexual marriages.
The Chinese government did invite Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, then prime minister of Iceland, and her wife Jónína Leósdóttir on an official state visit in April 2013. Jónína was largely absent from official media coverage of the visit but she was fully recognized as the wife of the prime minister and was received as such at official functions, official residences and a reception at Beijing Foreign Studies University. 
Since 1 July 2013, same-sex partners (including married couples) of current residents will be eligible for residency status in Beijing, under a "dependent resident status". This law only applies to Beijing Municipality. The key beneficiaries are expected to be white-collar foreign expats, whose partners and spouses will be able to accompany them and gain residency status in Beijing as a result of the new law.
In Hong Kong, same-sex partners of current residents are also given residency rights, through a "extended visitor's visa" or "de facto relationship visa". This visa must be renewed every six months and does not provide the right to work or qualify for permanent residency.
Hong Kong was not part of the People's Republic of China before 1997. Since 1997 it is a special administrative region of the People's Republic of China and has its own laws and legal system.
Homosexuality was decriminalised in Hong Kong in 1991. No measures have been put in place to allow same sex marriage nor to formally recognise same-sex unions, however a lawsuit is being carried out as to whether post-operation transsexuals can get married.
Although same-sex unions have not formed part of the historical Chinese cultural tradition, the earliest known advocate of same-sex unions was the 19th to 20th Century utopian reformer, Kang Youwei, who advocated temporary marriage contracts, lasting up for a year. These contracts would be for same-sex couples, as well as for heterosexual couples. However, he did not believe that China was ready for such a historic step, and deferred this policy until the future 'Datong' Utopia.
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- Intercountry Adoption | China | Who Can Adopt
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