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Gay couple appeal marriage ruling

Following a South Korean court’s rejection to recognize same-sex marriage, the country’s most outspoken gay couple and civic groups lodged a protest, calling for equal rights at a press conference Thursday.

Filmmakers Kim Jho Gwang-soo, 51, and his partner Kim Sung-hwan, 32, the first gay couple to openly tie the knot in Korea in 2013, expressed their disappointment with the court decision that they denounced as abandoning the responsibility to uphold justice.
Gay Korean couple Kim Jho Gwang-soo, 51, and his partner Kim Sung-hwan, 32, make remarks in a press conference held in Jongno-gu, central Seoul, to criticize a court’s refusal to recognize same-sex marriage. Yonhap
Gay Korean couple Kim Jho Gwang-soo, 51, and his partner Kim Sung-hwan, 32, make remarks in a press conference held in Jongno-gu, central Seoul, to criticize a court’s refusal to recognize same-sex marriage. Yonhap
The Seoul Western District Court on Wednesday dismissed a petition by the filmmaker couple seeking legal status for their same-sex marriage, saying that a separate legislative step is needed to recognize it as legitimate.

According to the court, not recognizing same-sex marriage does not violate the principle of equality, as marriage should be seen as a union between a man and woman who can give birth and bring up children to sustain society under current law.

The court decision came after local authorities denied their application to register for marriage, citing the absence of legal clauses. The couple filed a suit against the district office in May 2014.

While homosexuality is not banned in South Korea, the nation does not recognize same-sex marriage. Legally married couples are entitled to various benefits including the right to share assets, medical insurance and pension, among others.

“The South Korean court says we are not allowed to get married because we are both men. How long will it take for the government to recognize us as couple?” posed Kim at a press conference held in central Seoul.

“I hope the court musters up its courage to put an end to the institution of marriage discriminating against same-sex couple.”

Civil groups in support of sexual minorities also slammed the court for “shifting its responsibility” to the legislative body, pledging to fight for equal rights.

“I, as a lesbian living with my same-sex partner for four years now, think that the court made a bad decision, giving up its role as a judicial branch,” said Lee Ho-rim of Solidarity for LGBT Human Rights of Korea. “It is the judicial branch’s responsibility to tackle violation of basic human rights on the ground of gender.”

Their legal representatives said they would file a separate suit for two other gay and lesbian couples whose applications for marriage at the local authority were rejected.

Sexual minorities still live largely on the fringes of Korean society, as the majority of Koreans remain intolerant of homosexuality, with the latest Gallup poll ranking Korea at 69th among 123 nations in terms of gay-friendliness in 2013.

According to a 2014 survey by the National Human Rights Council of Korea of 518 sexual minorities, 44.4 percent said that they had suffered discrimination and bullying at least once at work.

By Ock Hyun-ju (laeticia.ock@heraldcorp.com)
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