February 12, 2015 / 10:57 AM / 3 years ago

A marriage made in California for gay contest winners in China

SHANGHAI, Feb 12 (Reuters) - Ten same-sex couples from China will tie the knot in California this summer after winning a week-long wedding and honeymoon package in an online contest sponsored by a maker of bed linen.

More than 75,000 votes were cast to pick the lucky couples in a three-day contest organised by Taobao, China's biggest e-commerce marketplace, ahead of the Valentine's Day weekend.

Same-sex marriage is illegal in China, but Taobao, run by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, "hopes to evoke respect and understanding of homosexuality and support the realisation of dreams," Alibaba spokeswoman Melanie Lee said on Thursday.

"It's more of a symbolic kind of gesture."

Homosexuality remains a largely taboo subject in the world's most populous nation thanks to decades of prudish Communist rule, despite numerous references in classical Chinese literature.

Social pressures usually ensure few people are openly gay in China, although there is a thriving gay scene in bigger cities.

Alibaba worked with four lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) groups to shortlist 20 couples from more than 400 applicants. Taobao users then voted for the prize winners.

California is one of more than 30 U.S. states where same-sex marriage is legal.

Taobao posted a letter from John D'Amico, mayor of the Los Angeles suburb of West Hollywood, welcoming LGBT couples from China to exchange vows in his town and congratulating them on their "love, courage and commitment for each other".

The main contest sponsor, Bliss, makes bedsheets. (Reporting by John Ruwitch; Editing by Tony Tharakan and Clarence Fernandez)

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