Gay marriage is illegal in China. So here's what one couple is doing about it.

Even though they didn't get the outcome they hoped for, Sun Wenlin and Hu Mingliang made history.

Several hundred cheering supporters joined Sun Wenlin and Hu Mingliang at China's Furong District Court, ready to make history.

The two men held hands as they entered the court to argue that their love and marriage are just as valid as a straight couple's. They would be the first same-sex marriage case heard before a Chinese court.


Sun Wenlin (left) and his partner, Hu Mingliang, arrive at the Furong District Court in Changsha in central China's Hunan province on April 13, 2016. AP Photo/Gerry Shih.

Sadly, the judge ruled against them, dashing their hopes of becoming the first legally married same-sex couple in China.

A lower court agreed to hear their case — a lawsuit against Changsha city authorities who rejected their marriage application — back in January. Unfortunately, the couple's argument didn't hold much legal merit, as China bans same-sex marriage pretty explicitly.

"The original text of the Marriage Law does not say one man and one woman, but a husband and a wife. I personally believe that this term refers not only to heterosexual couples but also to same-sex couples," said Sun.

While marriage rights for same-sex couples aren't in the cards just yet, China's gay rights movement has been gaining momentum.

As recently as 2001, being gay was considered a mental disorder. And while it's legal to be gay in China, the societal pressure to conform to traditional gender and family roles remains heavy, keeping many in the closet.

Gay couples kiss in 2011 during a ceremonial wedding to raise awareness for same-sex marriage. Photo by STR/AFP/Getty Images.

Still, recent years have seen increasingly bold demonstrations, pride parades, and other signs of progress.

Photo by Ted Aljibe/AFP/Getty Images.

Globally, same-sex marriage is still a fairly new concept.

It wasn't until 2000 that a country (The Netherlands) granted full marriage rights equally to both same- and opposite-sex couples, and just last year the U.S. did the same.

Vin Testa supports same-sex marriage at the Supreme Court on April 28, 2015. Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images.

If there's one thing we can learn from the gay rights movement around the world, it's that persistence pays off.

Sun and Hu plan to appeal the ruling. Their case has no doubt set the stage for something big. Maybe they won't win, but at very least, progress has been put in motion. Whenever same-sex marriage does come to China, these two brave men need to be among the pioneers remembered for their work.

Photo by Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images.

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