Malaysia declares same-sex marriages illegal

The Malaysian government said Monday it would not recognize a marriage between a man and his transsexual spouse, believed to be the first such union in this mostly Muslim country. Jessie Chung, a Malaysian Christian businesswoman in her 30s who underwent a sex change operation two years ago, married Joshua Beh at a hotel in Malaysia's eastern Sarawak state on Borneo island late Saturday, said wedding coordinator Brian Choot.

Chung and Beh, an accountant, have not obtained a legal marriage certificate. Their wedding was conducted by pastors from three independent churches, Choot told The Associated Press.

However, Deputy Home Affairs Minister Tan Chai Ho said Malaysian authorities considered the union a same-sex marriage, which is illegal in Malaysia.

"If I am not mistaken, this is the first time such a marriage has taken place in Malaysia," Tan told the national news agency, Bernama. "Their marriage is invalid, which means it doesn't have legal status."

Chung's formal identification papers still state that she is a man, because in Malaysia transsexuals cannot legally update their gender status even after they have a sex change operation, Tan said.

Chung, whose original name was Jeffrey, had not been informed of Tan's comments, but she "has accepted that the government officials would not approve her marriage," Choot said.

"She feels that she has fulfilled her dream by holding a traditional wedding," Choot said. He said Chung was not immediately available for comment. Chung is a U.S.-trained nutritionist who operates a health therapy business in Kuala Lumpur.

The National Evangelical Christian Fellowship, which represents more than 2,000 churches in Malaysia, also said it would not recognize Chung's marriage.

"We believe it's not appropriate," said the organization's secretary-general, Wong Kim Kong. I.L.

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