China's top media watchdog will soon have to justify its antigay restrictions.
A Beijing court accepted a case that will require China's State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television (SAPPRFT) to explain its 2017 ban on gay content in online media platforms.
The lawsuit was filed Wednesday by Fan Chunlin. The 30-year-old decided to take legal action, after SAPPRFT refused to respond to his public information request last year, as to why the regulator classified homosexuality as "abnormal."
In June 2017, SAPPRFT restricted internet providers from streaming television programs and films that show "abnormal sexual lifestyles or behavior." The regulation included same-sex attraction in a list of 84 taboo topics, in addition to acts like incest and sexual assault.
Due to this new decision, SAPPRFT will now have to explain the legal and policy basis of the ban in hearings — and the court will issue a ruling by August. However, LGBT activists are not optimistic about the outcome.
"We expect to lose somehow, because this is a national government department [we are challenging]," Yanzi Peng, founder of LGBT Rights Advocacy of China, told The Hollywood Reporter. "But we still wanted to file the case because we have to show the position from our community and to tell society that we are not abnormal."
"This regulation is very important, because it's not just one film or program," Peng added. "It's a rule for all film and TV content on the internet. If this kind of regulation isn't challenged, it means that discrimination against homosexuality is officially OK in China."
While it is not illegal to be gay in the world's most populous nation, it is not culturally accepted. Same-sex marriage is not legal, and only 39 percent of the country’s population believes it should be, according to a recent survey by WorkForLGBT. Depictions of same-sex couples are banned from television as well — although the 2017 decision to air Beauty and the Beast with its "gay moment" intact may be a sign of shifting views.