A court in China ruled Wednesday that two men should not be allowed to marry—but even the loss is being hailed as a big first step for gay rights advocates. A judge in the city of Changsha dismissed the lawsuit filed by 27-year-old Sun Wenlin, who argued that he should be allowed to legally wed his 37-year-old partner, Hu Mingliang, reports the Guardian. Sun plans to appeal, and the couple's lawyer says it's only a matter of time before gay marriage becomes the law of the land. Hundreds of LGBT supporters had gathered outside the courtroom in solidarity. Wednesday's ruling was expected, reports the New York Times, though the very decision to accept the case in the first place was "surprising," it adds.
"It’s still better than if we did nothing," Sun told the Los Angeles Times before the ruling came down. "If you don’t knock on the door, the door will be closed to you forever. But once you knock on the door, you can knock on it for a second and third time, and there’s a chance the door will finally open someday." The couple says two police officers visited them late last year and tried to convince them that marriage should be between a man and a woman because of the duty to procreate, though the officers said they weren't acting on behalf of the court. Meanwhile, the official People's Daily tweeted news of the new ruling, along with a photo of the two men holding hands as they crossed a street.