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June 22, 2011

IconLesbians wed in Nepal as government considers gay marriage ban

An American couple tied the knot during Nepal’s first public gay wedding on Monday. However, the status of same-sex marriage is currently contested in the Himalayan country.

Courtney Mitchell and Sarah Welton were married in accordance to Hindu tradition in a ceremony organised by Nepali LGBT advocates from the Blue Diamond Society and Pink Mountain Travels.

“The couple decided to have their wedding here as they want to support Nepal’s gay, lesbian and transgendered community and also promote tourism in Nepal,” said Sunil Babu Pant, the country’s first openly gay politician.

Mitchell lived in Nepal for five years as a Peace Corps volunteer between 1998 and 2003. It was during this time that she first met Pant at an early event organised by the Blue Diamond Society.

The wedding ceremony – which was not legally binding – comes as the future of marriage equality in Nepal is being called into question. The country’s supreme court asked the government to investigate options for a same-sex marriage bill in 2008, but recent reports suggest that new legal codes may in fact discriminate against LGBT people.

The proposed laws define marriage as the union of a man and a woman and use vague language to condemn “unnatural sexual acts”.

“The proposed civil and criminal laws [...] contain provisions to re-criminalise so-called ‘unnatural sexual offenses’,” Manisha Dhakal of the Blue Diamond Society told the United Nations Human Rights Council.

“These attempts by the law ministry are a clear sign not to follow international human rights standards, a clear intention not to implement the Supreme Court’s decision and also go against the spirit of the interim and new draft constitution of Nepal.”

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