By Sunnivie Brydum
Originally published on Advocate.com March 03 2014 3:18 PM ET
The first same-sex couple to publicly marry in Myanmar tied the knot in a ceremony on Saturday, in a symbol advocates hailed as progress for the predominantly Buddhist Southeast Asian nation.
After 10 years together, Tin Ko Ko and Myo Min Htet exchanged vows in an upscale hotel in Rangoon Saturday, dressed in traditional Myanmar clothes and adorned with garlands of jasmine, reports the Bangkok Post.
Although their union is not legally valid in Myanmar, the couple acknowledged that the public ceremony — the first of its kind in the nation, also known as Burma — was a significant milestone in a country that still technically criminalizes homosexuality under colonial-era penal codes. Same-sex marriages have taken place before, but this was the first public celebration in the nation, which neither expressly allows nor bans such unions.
"My family accepted me," Tin Ko Ko, 38, said in an emotional speech, according to the Post. "I am so glad that my parents were understanding ... but [my husband] had to overcome many difficulties from his family."
Both men reportedly work for LGBT rights organizations and had discussed their plans in the media, while keeping the precise location of the ceremony secret to avoid attracting protesters. The ceremony took place on the couple's 10th anniversary.
"Words can't express how happy I am," Myo Min Htet, 28, told the Myanmar Times. "I never dreamt that he would do something great like this for our anniversary. I thank him for his surprise gift. … I look forward to celebrating our 20th or 25th anniversary as well."
Tin Ko Ko (right) and Myo Min Htet (left) celebrate during their wedding reception at Yangon Hotel in Rangoon Sunday.
Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly reported the religious demographics of Burma. More than 85 percent of Burmese citizens identify as Buddhist, while four percent identify as Christian and as Muslim, according to Destination Asia.