Two "gay couples" failed in a bid to register for marriage at the Chaoyang district registration office yesterday, when gay rights activists used Valentine's Day as an opportunity to make a statement to fight for the rights of homosexuals.
The two couples, one male, the other female, went to the office in the morning and asked to register as married couples, but were turned down by office employees, although they brought all the paperwork required.
"I told them it can't happen since homosexual marriage is not legally recognized in China," said Suo Na, deputy director of the registration office.
The couples brought marriage certificates they made themselves, and had a "wedding ceremony" outside the registration office, holding roses in their arms.
But it was just a gay community activity and the couples are not real boyfriends and girlfriends, said Guo Ziyang, activity organizer and executive director with Beijing LGBT Center. One of the women is not even gay, but was there to give her support to her friends in the LGBT community.
"We saw the results coming, but we went anyway. We just want to send a message to the government and the public that homosexuals also want and should have the right to get married," Guo told the Global Times.
"I thought we'd be driven out, but to my surprise, the office employees were very nice when they heard we wanted gay marriage," said Zhang Yunyi, one half of the female "couple" and LGBT center volunteer.
"The office employees offered us their blessings, and told us to wait until changes were made to the marriage law," she said.
The atmosphere was festive as center volunteers handed out candy to registered newlyweds. One of the registered couples was very supportive and witnessed their "wedding," Zhang said.
The center had organized several flash-mobs on February 12 at Wangfujing, Xidan, Jianguomen and Houhai before Valentine's Day, where they held rainbow flags and kissed in public to promote their community.
Yesterday saw some 3,900 couples registered as husband and wife citywide by 5:30 pm, according to the media office at the Municipal Bureau of Civil Affairs.
Couples began lining up at districts' marriage registration offices as early as 3 am, and the offices opened at 8 am, an hour earlier than usual to welcome the excited couples.
"Usually we have less than 100 couples coming here per day for registration, but at Valentine's Day or Qixi, the Chinese equivalent, the number increases to 500 to 600," said Suo.
People crowded into the office yesterday morning and they had to send them through in groups, she said.
Chinese Valentine's Day falls later in the year, on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month.
"We chose today to register as I want my marriage to be special and memorable," said Wang Lijuan, who came to the Chaoyang office with her husband for their wedding certificate.
Wang Qingyi, a university teacher in Beijing, told the Global Times he and his wife getting married on Valentine's Day was not pre-planned, but they hope this romantic day could bring more happiness to their marriage.
"We love each other, and that's the only thing that matters," he said.
By Yan Shuang