Thu, Aug 21, 2003 - Page 5 News List

Marriage made easier for straight Chinese

REUTERS , BEIJING

China is making marriage easier for prospective newlyweds after decades of demanding blessings from their bosses, but same-sex unions remain outlawed in a land where homosexuals were until recently considered mentally ill.

Under new rules taking effect on Oct. 1, couples need only show their ID cards and residency papers and sign a document stating they are not married or related to register, state media said on Tuesday.

The regulations waive old requirements forcing people to undergo health examinations and obtain certification of their single status from employers.

"Certificates from the employers violated, to some extent, the principled policy of the freedom of marriage," the Xinhua news agency quoted civil affairs official Zhang Mingliang, director of the ministry's Department of Grassroots Government Units and Community Development, as saying.

China's marriage booklets will also no longer be red, the traditional symbol of good fortune which dominates most joyous occasions. And divorce booklets will cease to be green, now popularly associated with a slang term for the husband of a cheating wife and foreign "green cards" much coveted by Chinese citizens.

Zhang told the Beijing Times that in keeping with international standards, the certificates should lose their "emotional shades." He said the ministry was studying what color they would be.

Migrant couples will still have to travel to either the spouse's home province to apply to marry or divorce, rather than register in a third place, civil affairs official Wang Hongli told Reuters.

A database of nuptials between foreigners and Chinese will be launched early next year, it said.

Zhang said couples with AIDS or other infectious diseases could marry -- HIV-positive patients have been barred from doing so in certain parts of the country -- but said same-sex marriages would remain illegal.

China's largely closeted gay population, as many as 50-100 million by some experts' estimates, have seen a flurry of breakthroughs.

The government struck homosexuality from a list of psychiatric disorders in 2001. Private gay and lesbian wedding ceremonies have drawn limited press attention and created a stir in artistic and intellectual circles.

"But the new regulations on marriage registration have no special restriction on marriage involving such people," Zhang said in reference to gays.

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