The City of West Hollywood hosted an emotional wedding today for seven same-sex couples — six male couples and one female couple — who traveled to the United States from China for the occasion. The wedding celebration took place at the City Council Chambers adjacent to the West Hollywood Library. Mayor Lindsey Horvath officiated the ceremony. Several dozen people attended the event, including friends and family members of the couples, as well as media and community members.
“West Hollywood has long been at the center of the marriage equality movement,” Horvath said. “In addition to fighting for full equality under the law, our city officials performed special wedding ceremonies at West Hollywood Park in 2008, and at West Hollywood City Hall as soon as Proposition 8 was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013. We hope that this wedding will send a strong message, especially to LGBT people across the globe, that the City of West Hollywood celebrates your right to marry and welcomes your destination wedding as a symbol of our commitment to equality for all.”
The wedding ceremony and celebration is the result of collaborative effort including the City of West Hollywood, Visit West Hollywood, and various participating organizations, including Taobao, the Chinese online shopping marketplace; Blued, a China-based social app for gay, bisexual, and curious men; the Beijing LGBT Center, PFLAG China, and China Luxury Advisors. The Los Angeles LGBT Center, the world’s largest provider of programs and services for LGBT people, will offer the couples a tour of its facilities and is hosting an evening reception.
The couples were selected as winners of an online contest hosted by Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce company. The aim of the contest and wedding celebration is to raise awareness and foster acceptance of same-sex relationships in China. The couples were selected from more than 400 entries. Originally, 10 couples were selected to take part; due to travel complications only seven couples were able to participate in the journey and wedding event. The event is concurrent with June Pride Month.
“With more than 40 percent of the residential population identifying as LGBT, the City of West Hollywood has long been one of the most popular gay travel destinations,” said Bradley Burlingame, president and CEO of Visit West Hollywood. “From a simple civil ceremony to a lavish rooftop affair, West Hollywood offers not just unique wedding venues but an overarching spirit of inclusion and a longstanding support for the LGBT community that is woven into the city’s foundation.”
While homosexuality was decriminalized in China in 1997, same-sex marriages are not recognized by the Chinese government. As a result, many same-sex couples have looked abroad for inspiration and recognition of their relationship. In February 2015, Alibaba launched its “We Do” campaign on Taobao to celebrate the love of committed same-sex couples in China. Same-sex couples from throughout China were encouraged to submit a short video to showcase their love stories. The top 10 contenders were selected to win a free trip to West Hollywood to tie-the-knot and enjoy a mini honeymoon and a pre-wedding shopping session hosted by the Beverly Center.
The campaign is likely to be seen by same-sex couples in China as a symbol of friendship and acceptance. The trip is sponsored by Bliss, a Chinese bedding brand. China’s largest gay social app, Blued, is following the couples on their journey with a camera crew to document the whole trip. The documentary will be released on China’s top online video platforms including Youku and Tudou and is expected to receive widespread attention from China’s ever-more-visible LGBT community.
West Hollywood was one of the first cities in the country to pass a resolution in support of marriage equality, paving the way for same-sex marriage initiatives all over the country. In June 2008, in a monumental moment in U.S. history, the city, in conjunction with the Los Angeles County Register-Recorder Clerk, began to issue marriage licenses and perform civil ceremonies for same-sex couples after the California Supreme Court ruled that a ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. The city was forced to halt those marriages in November 2008 with the passage of Proposition 8, a state constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage. A long legal battle ensued in federal court, which finally resulted in the U.S. Supreme Court dismissing an appeal in Hollingsworth v. Perry in June 2013 allowing same-sex marriages to resume. The City of West Hollywood launched a marriage celebration, and to date, West Hollywood council members and city officials have performed hundreds of civil ceremonies.