Gus Kenworthy
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South Korean LGBTQ Activists Demand Marriage Rights and More

South Korean activists

LGBTQ activists in South Korea have petitioned the country’s National Human Rights Commission for relationship recognition and other steps toward equality.

A coalition called Gagoonet, which translates as the Korean Network for Partnership and Marriage Rights, submitted a petition Wednesday bearing more than 1,000 names, United Press International reports. It “cites violations of numerous economic and social rights in Korea due to the lack of legal same-sex partnerships,” according to UPI.

The nation does not offer marriage or any other form of legal relationship recognition to same-sex couples. It also has some anti-LGBTQ laws. For instance, “in the military, consensual sex between men is punishable by up to two years in prison,” UPI notes.

Several activists rallied at the commission’s headquarters Wednesday. Yi Ho-rim, one of Gagoonet’s organizers, said the group wants the commission to persuade the national government to consider legislation for partnership rights.

“In South Korea, there’s still not an active conversation on same-sex marriage or LGBT policies and laws,” she said. “One purpose of this mass petition is to facilitate a public conversation about same-sex marriage.” Some advocates said they were inspired by the legalization of same-sex marriage in Taiwan, which this year became the first nation in Asia with marriage equality.

A Gagoonet survey this summer found that same-sex couples in South Korea face a host of problems due to the lack of marriage rights or any other form of relationship recognition. They cannot access low-interest housing loans that are available to newly married opposite-sex couples, and they often are excluded from decisions surrounding care for a sick partner.

President Moon Jae-in, who took office in 2017, said at a recent meeting with Christian and Buddhist leaders that there should be no discrimination against sexual minorities, but the nation must reach a consensus on marriage rights before the government takes action on that issue. During his campaign, he had said he opposed homosexuality, a remark denounced by LGBTQ rights groups.

However, the nation’s attitude toward LGBTQ people is evolving, Yi told UPI. “Things are changing rapidly because the LGBT community is becoming more visible and many people are coming out to their families, in public, and at the workplace,” she said.

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