June 9, 2015 / 11:40 PM / 2 years ago

West Hollywood marries seven contest-winning gay couples from China

Couples kiss after getting married at a group wedding for seven same-sex couples from China, in West Hollywood, California, United States, June 9, 2015. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. (Reuters) - Seven gay and lesbian couples from China were married in the Southern California gay capital of West Hollywood on Tuesday after winning a contest sponsored by a pair of Chinese Internet companies. 

The seven couples were selected from among more than 2,000 based on videos they submitted detailing their love stories, after Internet users voted for their top 10 favorites on Taobao, Alibaba’s popular e-commerce site.

West Hollywood Mayor Lindsey Horvath officiated the wedding ceremonies at a city library for six gay and one lesbian couple who managed to get U.S. visas. The contest was also sponsored by Blued, a social media app popular with gays in China.

“We’re so honored and happy to have them in West Hollywood,” Horvath said. “We’ve long been a community committed to equal rights for all people, and advancing and protecting the rights especially of our LGBT community.” 

While these couples’ marriages are recognized in California, which legalized gay marriage in 2013, their unions will not be legal in China. China decriminalized homosexuality in 1997, but does still not allow gay marriage. 

Xu Na (center L) hugs her new wife Xue Mengyao (center R) at a group wedding for seven same-sex couples from China, in West Hollywood, California, United States, June 9, 2015. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

“We’ve been together for almost eight years, so we want to give each other a promise or a commitment for life,” said Hu Zhidong, 32, who met his partner, Liu Xin, also 32, at a party, where they found out they shared the same birthday. 

Slideshow (5 Images)

To Xu Na, 29, and Xue Meng Yao, 21, the only lesbian couple participating in the ceremony, the opportunity to use this event to come out was also important.

“We want to find a proper time to tell our parents,” Xu said. “This could be a good chance for them to see a lot of positive exposure.” 

During the ceremony the couples recited their vows in both English and Chinese, often while shedding tears.

Geng Le, Blued’s founder and chief executive, said that while many online media outlets in China were interested in covering this event, Chinese television stations might hesitate, because homosexuality was still a sensitive topic there.

Reporting by Phoenix Tso in West Hollywood; Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Eric Walsh

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