The wedding of two Chinese men last Thursday at the Saipan Mayor’s Office is the latest proof yet that same-sex marriage ceremonies is indeed booming on the island.
Since 2015 when same-sex marriage was legalized in the U.S. and its protectorates, there has been a significant jump in the number of same-sex marriages on Saipan, majority of which involve Chinese tourists.
The upward trend of same-sex marriages started out with the Saipan Mayor’s Office officiating 12 same-sex marriages in 2015. Half of the same-sex marriage certificates issued that year were Chinese tourists.
In 2016, there was a significant jump in same-sex marriages as 30 marriage licenses where issued, 25 of which were issued to same-sex Chinese couples.
Last Thursday, two couples tied the knot at the Saipan Mayor’s Office. Mayor’s office wedding coordinator Barbara Yamada said this was the sixth and seventh same-sex marriage for the month of April, alone (the number of same sex marriages starting from January has yet to be tabulated). All couples were Chinese tourists.
One of the couples that were officially married last Thursday was the Lyu couple. The Lyus were open to answer a few questions from Saipan Tribune.
According to Jial Lyu, he and his new husband are Chinese tourists. They came to Saipan with the sole purpose of being married.
Lyu told Saipan Tribune that he and his husband have been together for five years, but because same sex-marriage is not legalized in China, they had to find another way to tie the knot.
According to Lyu, he and his husband stumbled across a video on the internet of two Chinese women who ventured to Saipan and tied the knot. This is what inspired the Lyus to pack up for a trip to Saipan and solemnize their union.
The Lyus set out for Saipan for a week just to arrange their marriage at the mayor’s office. Right after the wedding, Lyu and his husband went back to China.
Lyu shared that their marriage would not be considered valid in their country. It is not legal for a man and another man to be married. Fortunately, there is no law that discourages same-sex couples to get married in another country.
Although their marriage would mean nothing in China, the Lyus don’t mind. To them they are legally married and are free to live as husband and husband.
Geographically, Saipan is the closest accessible protectorate for same-sex Chinese couples to get married. Chinese tourists can easily enter the Commonwealth without a visa if they are entering as tourists under parole authority.
The mayor’s office is open to continue conducting same-sex marriages for tourists if they are willing to pay the amount to obtain an issued license, and to be truthful in filling out the marriage application. The cost of obtaining a marriage license on Saipan is $50.
According to Saipan Mayor David Apatang, it is his obligation to conduct marriages as long as requirements are met.