Malaysia's first openly gay pastor says to wed

Tue Aug 16, 2011 6:33am EDT
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KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Getting married on the upcoming anniversary of Malaysia's independence day on August 31 holds special meaning for the country's first openly gay pastor, who says he is seeking greater tolerance in this Muslim-majority country.

Ouyang Wen Feng co-founded a gay-friendly Christian church in the Southeast Asian nation's capital in 2007 that has been condemned by conservative religious groups. Homosexuality is punishable in Malaysia by caning and up to 20 years jail.

The 41-year-old Ouyang says he will tie the knot with his American partner, Broadway producer Phineas Newborn III, 47, in a ceremony in New York, which last month became the sixth U.S. state to legalize gay marriages.

"We plan to register the marriage on Malaysia's National Day on August 31, which means a lot to me," said Ouyang.

In Malaysia, neither civil nor Islamic laws, which run parallel to each other, recognize same sex unions and the subject remains deeply taboo.

Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim is battling a criminal charge of sodomising a former male aide in a case which he says is a political plot to discredit his reputation among the country's Muslim majority.

Christians make up about 9 percent of the country's 28 million population.

Malaysia's Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, Jamil Khir Baharom, who is in charge of Islamic affairs, recently described Ouyang's plans to wed as an example of "extreme freedom."

Ouyang was the subject of a string of criticism via emails and comments in the media following the establishment of his church four years ago. But Malaysians in general have not been hostile toward him, he said.   Continued...

<p>An undated handout photo released to Reuters in Kuala Lumpur August 15, 2011 shows Malaysia's first openly gay pastor Ouyang Wen Feng (R) posing with his American partner Phineas Newborn III. REUTERS/Handout</p>