SICHUAN, China — The parents of a woman who committed suicide after discovering that her husband was gay, lost a lawsuit against him in a local court in Southwest China’s Sichuan Province.
The parents of 31-year-old Luo Hongling, a Korean language teacher at the Chongqing-based, Sichuan Foreign Studies University, sued their only daughter’s widowed husband, Cheng, for fraud. In court documents filed last year, the parents alleged that Cheng failed to fulfill his legal obligations as a spouse, also claiming that he hid his sexual orientation prior to getting married and asked for 630,000 yuan ($101,119) in compensation for his deception.
The parents claimed that their daughter, although married to him for 5 months, only had sex a few times.
According to the parents, Cheng insisted on sleeping in a separate room and kept looking for and dating men based on text messages their daughter discovered on her husband’s mobile phone, and believed he married her only to cover up his gay identity.
After seeing yet another series of explicit sexual text messages with another man, she decided to end her life, jumping from their apartment on the 13th floor, killing her instantly on June 16, 2011.
The couple had been married only half a year, and had not filed for divorce prior to Luo’s death.
Cheng’s lawyer told the court that his client’s behavior did not result in his wife’s death, and the couple’s marriage conformed to related laws and that his client had already compensated his former in-laws 32,000 yuan (about $5,100 USD).
In its ruling, the court agreed with the defense and rejected the fraud claim by Luo’s parents, saying that knowledge of Cheng’s sexual orientation did not affect the legitimacy of their voluntary marriage registration. The court also noted that China’s marriage laws do not prohibit gay and lesbians from entering heterosexual marriages, although same-sex marriages are banned in China.
The court ruled that Ms. Hongling had other options to deal with her mental anguish other than to end her life.
Li Yinhe, a renowned sexologist and expert in human sexuality formerly with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, said that the court’s ruling is a message to homosexuals who enter fake marriages.
“Legislation to some degree might help prevent these kinds of marriages,” Li remarked on Monday. According to Li, approximately 16 million Chinese spouses have unwittingly married gay or lesbians.
A spokesperson for the Beijing-based LGBT equality rights NGO Aibai Culture and Education Center said that Cheng should not have committed adultery, although he acknowledged there are cultural and social pressures to conform and produce offspring, which likely forced him into the marriage.
Luo’s parents said they will appeal the lower court’s decision to the Sichuan Provincial Intermediate People’s Court.