Earlier this month, sexologist-sociologist Li Yinhe (李银河) announced on her blog that she would be making five proposals at the “Two Sessions” for:
 the legalisation of same-sex marriage,
 the decriminalisation of “group licentiousness”,
 replacing China’s anti-pornography law with one that introduces classifications for media products
 the legalisation of prostitution, and
 the introduction of regular “Meet the People” events for the “Two Sessions”, and to raise the proportion of female People’s Representatives to 30%.
Li’s announcement that she would be making yet another attempt at a proposal for same-sex marriage at the “Two Sessions” excited China’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, but also provoked another firestorm of debate. The discussion of Li’s five proposals has been mostly dominated by the issue of same-sex marriage.
Recently, Li Tie (李铁, no relation to Li Yinhe), editor of The Times Weekly 《时代周报》, weighed in on the subject at NetEase, one of China’s largest web portals, in an article entitled “The legalisation of same-sex marriage is a complex problem”. We reprint a translation of his article, originally found on Samesame.com.au, and edited by Shanghaiist to improve accuracy, below.
“Love” is a matter of freedom. “Marriage” is a matter of law.
Before we begin the discussion of “legalizing same-sex marriage”, the first thing that needs to be clear is that how we look at homosexuality is completely different from discussing same-sex marriage in the context of law. Two individuals of the same sex falling in love is same-sex love, but same-sex marriage refers to the relationship that is recognized and protected by law or society.
As our society progresses, more and more people agree that gays and lesbians have the right to love and to live together and can also be referred as “partners”. These are matters that are within their personal rights. Once it comes to legalizing same-sex marriage, it must be a kind of “civil union” which is recognized by the law. In most places that recognize civil unions, for instance in Switzerland and certain states in the US, these partnerships are afforded the same legal rights as heterosexual marriages, though they are generally looser relationships. Whatever the case may be, there are limitations, as is the case with all situations that involve rights.
Legalizing same-sex marriage – You can’t not take into account ethics, law and religion
Compared to other countries, the debate on same-sex marriage in China is overly simple. The reasons provided by advocates of same-sex marriage advocators are too simplistic: same-sex marriage is a private matter and individual freedom between the two people, so the law should allow and protect same-sex marriage. Many of those opposing same-sex marriage also fail to give specific reasons other than saying homosexuality is against the natural order, immoral and revolting.
Because marriage itself is full of various values, same-sex marriage involves much more than homosexuality. In countries with long-time Christian traditions, same-sex marriage must overcome the “religious barrier” in addition to legal and social ethical objections. In February this year, when the government of the United Kingdom announced that it was going to introduce new laws that would allow homosexual couples to organise weddings in places of worship, this was warmly welcomed by the gay community and rights groups, but the Church of England immediately stated that it would not permit homosexuals to marry in churches. Also, Dr John Sentamu, the Bishop of York, said that allowing gay people to marry in churches would “trampling on the rights of others.”
Viewpoint #1: Marriage is a personal right. Each person should be allowed to be married with anybody of his/her choosing.
Discussion #1: As a part of the social system, marriage needs ethical and legal support.
It’s quite often that a majority of same-sex marriage advocators are from the “elite groups”. However, this advocacy sometimes is only out of the “rebellion” against traditional morals and ethics, because in the past traditional morals were associated with power, hypocrisy and autocracy. Therefore liberal groups tend to simply equalize same-sex marriage with human rights, tolerance and civilization, and believe advocating same-sex marriage is a progressive and right act. However in terms of law, the idea of “it should be allowed because it is my personal freedom” is debatable.
In mainstream societies around the world, marriage is the cornerstone of human relationships and it will easily collapse if any kind of consensual relationship can become “marriage”. No matter you want to admit or not, marriage system itself is not a “private matter” but associated with a lot of public functions such as spouse medical welfare, housing benefits and tax reduction. Since marriage is protected by public powers, its public nature is obvious. Back to the topic of same-sex marriage, same-sex couples are of course free to love, but whether their relationships should be legally acknowledged is a matter of the law and of ethics.
Viewpoint #2: Same-sex marriage only concerns gay people and no one else.
Discussion #2: Same-sex marriage will alter the fundamental meaning of that may have an impact far beyond the homosexual community.
The impacts of same-sex marriage include the “domino effect” that it may bring upon the marriage system. Once same-sex marriage is legalized, it may lead to debates on legalizing polygamous marriages and bestiality marriages. If the law recognizes same-sex marriage, what about the “rights” to adultery, incest or pedophilia? Does this bring the challenge to the bottom line of civilization? One reknowned gay activist, when asked what his next goal after attaining gay marriage was, famously answered, “to make marriage possible for three people”. In 1972, over two hundred gay organisations decided to make the removal of all age limits on sexual behavior as their common agenda, and since then the North American Man/Boy Love Association (NAMBLA) has been actively pushing for the legalisation of pedophilia.
We need to be cautious on all new forms marriage because they can affect the entire system. In 2008 in Australia, a father and a daughter openly announced on television that they had had two children through sexual relations. They said, “This is a consensual relationship between two willing adults, and we want to be respected and understood for this.” The local court found them guilty to incest and placed them under supervision to prevent them from having sexual relations with each other. If we legalize same-sex marriage, would we have to then legalize bigamy, polygamy and adultery? Would this not be a challenge to civilization?
Viewpoint #3: Not providing for the legalization of same-sex marriage is anti-human rights.
Discussion #3: Same-sex marriage is not included into human rights by the world’s mainstream. It is not the “trend of human right development” either.
Advocates of same-sex marriage believe that the right to marry is a human right, so to be anti-same-sex marriage is anti-human rights. This opinion is merely a simple interpretation of human rights. As a matter of fact, none of Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenant on civil and political rights and International Covenenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights recognize same-sex marriage but clearly state that marriage is between male and female adults.
In addition, it’s too early to say “same-sex marriage is the trend of human rights development” as only a few countries in the world recognize same-sex marriage. In 2001, the Netherlands became the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage, and since then it has only been eight [sic] years. Countries like Belgium, Canada, Spain, Switzerland and Norway that recognize same-sex marriages form the minority of the community of nations. Even though the gay movement is making lots of noise, the truth is that only a handful of countries have legalized same-sex marriage. Even in the relatively liberal United States, 90% of states do not recognize same-sex marriage.
Viewpoint #4: The refusal to allow same-sex marriage is “heterosexual hegemony”.
Discussion #4: Same-sex families are more instable than family units comprised of a father and mother.
Just as single parenthood was once a hot topic, children in gay families can meet with problems if they lack the love of a father or a mother, and this has been an important matter of consideration for the courts in countries discussing the legalization of same-sex marriage. Researchers show that 29% of the children adopted by same-sex parents have been the victims of sexual molestation, compared to 0.6% in heterosexual parents families.
Viewpoint #5: There are no religious obstacles to the legalization of same-sex marriage in China, and hence China should take the lead in this area.
Discussion #5: In the legalization of same-sex marriage, religion needs to be the “bottom line”.
Sexologist Li Yinhe once pointed out that compared to Western culture, Chinese culture has its advantages in terms of legalizing same-sex marriage as there are no religious or cultural objections to same-sex marriage. In fact, this may not be a good thing for China. Christianity has provided the foundation of culture in Western society for a few thousand years no, and this has provided them with the strength to withstand the cultural clash of same-sex marriage. There is an important need for such strength for all of the above reasons.
In Western countries, religious groups are the arch enemy of the gay marriage movement, but this objection is not necessarily “arbitrary and unreasonable”. The Christian civilization has provided western societies with soul and meaning, and many concepts relating to freedom and equality are actually based on Christian concepts. In contemporary Chinese society, due to the loss of tradition, this kind of balancing power no longer exists. This is why when faced with the issue of same-sex marriage, religion can provide us with a landmark and reference point in terms of values.
A quick observation by Shanghaiist:
This article is remarkable for the many ways that it sounds so familiar to the western reader. To make his point, the writer readily imports arguments used by the religious right, or to be more specific, the Christian Right, in the United States — the constant conflation of homosexuality with polygamy, paedophilia, incest and bestiality; the “slippery slope” argument; the assertion that the “gay agenda” is going to make governments compel churches to conduct gay weddings; and the suggestion that same-sex marriage is going to lead to an increase in the sexual abuse of children. (The above statistics quoted by Li come from US researchers Paul and Kirk Cameron, whose reports have been roundly debunked. The Camerons, who work closely with Christian “pro-family” groups, have since been dropped from the membership of the American Psychological Association.)
It should perhaps be no surprise then that Li Tie himself is a devout Christian. A graduate of the Hong Kong Baptist University, Li has frequently been criticised by netizens for praising the Christian worldview that he says is embodied by the West, and for bemoaning China’s alleged lack of morals and values.
Over the last few years, Christians in China have been becoming bolder in asserting their views on the public square. In 2007, actor Sun Haiying was lambasted for calling homosexuality a sin and for associating it with “moral decadence and corruption”. Last year, Elder Fu Xianwei, the chairman of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement and one of the highest-ranking officials of the state-approved Protestant church, attended a conference of anti-gay Anglican bishops in Singapore, where he announced he would be seeking closer ties with the group. Also, in a bewildering decision by the State Administration for Religious Affairs last year, the anti-gay Democratic member of the Illinois Senate, Rev James Meeks, was granted permission to preach alongside evangelist Luis Palau in the first gospel rally of its kind in China.