A South Korean court has rejected a gay couple’s petition to marry, the first such request in the country.
“Circumstances have changed concerning marriage… but unless there is separate legislation, a same-sex union cannot be recognized as marriage under the existing legal system,” the court said in a statement. “The constitution and civil law are premised on the notion of a conjugal bond meaning a union involving different sexes.”
Movie director Kim Jho Gwang-Soo and his partner, Kim Seung-Hwan, initially filed a lawsuit in July 2015, They argued that their same-sex union was legal under Korean civil law.
“I don’t know why we have to be pushed to the side just because we are the same sex,” said a tearful Kim Jho, whose films include Two Weddings and a Funeral and Boy Meets Boy.
Kim Seung-Hwan called on other gay and lesbian couples to step forward. “I would like to ask all same-sex couples to come out of the closet and join us,” Kim said. “The legalization will happen faster if the concerned party gets bigger.”
Their attorney, Ryu Min-Hee, said they plan on appealing the judge’s ruling. “We’re disappointed but we’re not done yet… We will continue to add litigants. The voice will get louder from all regions.”
The two Kims, who have been together for 12 years, held a symbolic wedding ceremony in 2013 that was attended by hundreds. That ceremony was briefly interrupted by a Christian activist, who threw food on members of the choir.
Homosexuality is legal in Korea but is still taboo—Kim Jho and actor-politician Hong Seok-cheon are two of the only out celebrities in the country.
Below, activists discuss the push for marriage equality in Asia.