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Chinese Court Rules Against Gay Marriage

Sun Wenlin, right, and partner Hu Mingliang leave the court after a judge ruled against them in China's first gay marriage case in Changsha in central China's Hunan province, April 13, 2016. Several hundred supporters cheered them on at the courthouse.

A Chinese court has ruled against a gay couple seeking to get married – the first case of its kind in China.

Sun Wenlin, 27, sued a civil affairs bureau for refusing to grant him and his partner a marriage license. The case was dismissed Wednesday within a matter of hours.

But Sun and his partner, Hu Mingliang, said they were surprised the court accepted their case at all, giving them the floor to argue about gay rights for the first time in a Chinese court.

The couple's lawyer, Shi Fulong, said he didn't expect the court in the central city of Changsha to dismiss the case so quickly. "It goes against the spirit of the laws of the People's Republic of China," he added.

Shi said he and his clients would appeal the verdict.

Shi told the French news agency, AFP, he believes "there will be more gay people fighting for their rights in different ways."

Sun and Hu were met at the district courthouse Wednesday by roughly 300 cheering supporters, many of whom had traveled overnight or had waited outside since before dawn. Court officials allowed around 100 spectators in the court room.

The couple and the lawyer remain hopeful this first step is promising for same-sex couples throughout the country. "We lost, but I think it is just a matter of time for same-sex partners being allowed to get married," the couple's lawyer said.

Homosexuality was decriminalized in 1997, but remained labeled as a mental illness for four more years. Tolerance has grown recently in cities, though conservative attitudes remain the norm across the country. It is still rare for homosexual couples to live together in China.