The UK government has helped gay couples marry in China, Serbia and Cambodia
Hundreds of same-sex couples are getting married inside British consulates in countries where gay marriage is still banned, under little-known rules.
After equal marriage became legal in England and Wales, the British government made changes to permit gay weddings to take place at a number of Diplomatic Missions around the world.
Under the policy, overseas same-sex couples can marry under British law inside UK consulates and embassies, as long as one of the applicants is a British citizen.
This means gay couples can access same-sex weddings in dozens of countries across the world where they are still banned from doing so under local law.
Data from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office this week revealed that hundreds of couples have taken advantage of the little-known offer.
Yein Kai Yee and Sutpreedee Chinithigun, a couple who tied the knot inside the Vietnamese embassy
Responding to an inquiry, the FCO confirmed: “UK Diplomatic Missions celebrated 6 civil partnerships and 202 same sex marriages between 1 July 2016 and 6 July 2017.
“Between 1 July 2016 and 6 July 2017 civil partnerships and same sex marriages were celebrated at UK Diplomatic Missions in Australia, Cambodia, China, Cyprus, Germany, Japan, Malta, Mozambique, Philippines, Serbia, Venezuela and Vietnam.”
By holding ceremonies in consulates, couples are able to have a genuine marriage ceremony with their loved ones without having to travel to the UK.
While many of the ceremonies have been low-key, others have been prominently celebrated by diplomats.
After a 2014 same-sex wedding in Japan, the British Ambassador said: “It is great to be able to celebrate same sex marriages at the British Embassy in Tokyo.
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“Today’s ceremony is a celebration for the happy couple; a celebration of equality and rights for all; and a celebration of British values.
A spokesperson for the Foreign Office said: “The UK believes that human rights are universal and that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people should be free to enjoy the rights and freedoms to which people of all nations are entitled.”
UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson recently spoke about changing rules to permit British Consulates to fly the rainbow flag abroad.
Mr Johnson said: “I would just like to say that the first thing I did – the first instruction I issued – as Foreign Secretary, on I think July 13 last year when I took up this job was to say that the rainbow flag should be flown from every one of our embassies, legations and consulates around the world.
“And they said – some of the FCO [Foreign & Commonwealth Office] officials – that in some countries that might prove controversial and that it might even cause offence in some places, and I said that that might be necessary in the short term.”