myanmar_gay_marriage_afp_030314_540_359_100Myanmar:  A gay couple married in a lavish public ceremony that they say was the first of its kind in the conservative Buddhist nation, reports AFP news agency.

Tin Ko Ko and Myo Min Htet exchanged rings in an upmarket Yangon hotel March 2, in the latest sign of changing social mores in the Southeast Asian nation as it emerges from the shadow of military dictatorship, said the report published in

The marriage does not enjoy any legal status but followed the customs of other Myanmar weddings, with the two men arriving in solemn procession followed by six groomsmen in front of some two hundred guests. The couple were dressed in matching traditional Myanmar clothes and garlanded with jasmine.

“My family accepted me. I am so glad that my parents were understanding… but he had to overcome many difficulties from his family,” said Tin, 38, of his partner in an emotional speech .

The pair, who both work for rights groups, have lived together for 10 years without publicly declaring their relationship.

Same-sex relations are criminalized under the nation’s colonial-era penal code.

While the law is not strictly enforced, activists have long complained of harassment and discrimination.

But taboos around homosexuality have begun to be relaxed after a quasi-civilian government replaced military rule three years ago. Myanmar held its first gay pride celebrations in May 2012.

Wedding guests applauded as the couple kissed after cutting a red heart-shaped cake.

“This is like a challenge to our neighbors, who do not understand us and see us as very strange people,” said Aung Myo Min, from the rights group Equality Myanmar, addressing fellow guests.

Myanmar does not recognize a same-sex marriage or civil union performed in another nation, nor does it permit such legal recognition internally. It is a predominantly Buddhist country where homosexual relations are viewed as unnatural relationship. In Buddhism, a common belief is that if a man is gay in this life it means he has sexually assaulted a woman in a past life.

You can watch an AFP clip from the wedding reception here: