Same-sex couples in China using legal loophole to get married over Zoom in Utah

Couple hug

Same-sex couples from China are proving love always wins by getting married virtually in America thanks to a legal loophole.

Since last year, Rest of the World magazine estimates around 200 couples from China and Hong Kong have tied the knot via zoom in Provo, Utah County.

Same-sex marriage has been made possible in Utah as it has no residency or citizenship requirements for marriage licences, and Provo allows online international marriages.

Michael Foley, a radio host and licensed marriage officiant in Utah, said some couples have been waiting years to get married.

“It shines through, that sense of ‘this is finally happening,’” he told The Guardian, “that this is a long time coming, that they’ve finally found a way to do it.”

In Utah same-sex unions have been recognised since 2014, but in China (where homosexuality was only decriminalised in 1997), same-sex marriage remains illegal.

Same-sex unions are also illegal in Hong Kong, although the city state does recognise overseas marriage for spousal benefits such as tax purposes, dependent visas and housing.

‘It made our love stronger’

Liu Yangming and Zhu Guangyu, both based in Guangzhou, China, are one of the couples who chose to tie the knot virtually.  

“It made our love stronger,” Yangming told Rest of World.

“Before, we would think we might break up some day but now we can’t just break up.”

Yangming’s mum spoke to China File about dialling in to the ceremony to witness her son get married on Zoom, watching from her home.

She said it was “joyous” to see her child wed, but was pained to know their marriage wouldn’t be recognised in China today.

Yangming and Zhu didn’t have to apply for visas to get married, and the whole affair reportedly cost less than $300.

Despite their marriage not having legal status in China, couples like Yangming and Guangyu have said their marriage has made their relationship feel more secure. 

Since the start of the pandemic in 2020, the Utah County clerk and auditor’s office has performed virtual weddings for more than 3,500 international couples, including for partners from China, Finland, France and Kenya, the New York Times has reported.

Bert Harvey, who oversees marriage licenses at the clerk’s office, told the New York Times: “We have become an international marriage venue completely by accident. But we’re leaning into it.” 

LGBTQ+ activist Jimmy Sham has been fighting to have his overseas same-sex marriage recognised in Hong Kong for almost five years, but in August this year his bid to have his love recognised was rejected.