A gay Malaysian pastor who plans to marry his American partner in New York pledged Tuesday to throw a wedding banquet in his Muslim-majority home country despite criticism by government politicians.
The Rev. Ouyang Wen Feng, an ordained minister who has mainly lived in the United States since 1998, told The Associated Press that he wants more Malaysians to speak up for gay people after the country's Islamic affairs minister recently described same-sex unions as a form of "extremism."
Malaysian gay rights advocates frequently accuse authorities of homophobia. The government forbids movies and song lyrics that promote acceptance of gays. A decades-old law makes sodomy punishable by 20 years in prison, though it is seldom and selectively enforced.
Ouyang, a 41-year-old ethnic Chinese, is planning this year to wed an African-American musical producer who has been his boyfriend since 2009. In recent years, Ouyang has taught sociology and gender studies at colleges in New York, which recently became the sixth U.S. state to legalize same-sex marriage.
"I still plan to have a Chinese wedding banquet in Kuala Lumpur next year," Ouyang said in an email to the AP. "I believe, I deserve at least this very right to share my joy with my friends by dining together, even in Malaysia."
Malaysia's Islamic Affairs Minister Jamil Khir Baharom said last weekend that authorities were worried about publicity surrounding Ouyang's plan to marry, though he would not say whether any action could be taken.
"We agree with human rights, but such extremism that allows man and man to marry will create social problems," the minister said. The Utusan Malaysia newspaper, owned by Malaysia's ruling party, and other politicians urged the government to bar Ouyang from having any wedding ceremony in the Southeast Asian nation.
Ouyang said it was "heartbreaking to hear some politicians in my beloved country call my love unethical or immoral simply because of the gender identity of my lover."
"I urge all reasonable and open-minded straight people to come out and speak up in order to break the conspiracy of silence, because silence kills," he said in his email. "By keeping quiet, many good people have inevitably and unfortunately given their tacit consent to the oppressive culture that promotes homophobia and perpetuates ignorance."
Last year, a young gay Malaysian who posted a YouTube clip defending his sexuality received online death threats. Authorities accused him of insulting Islam, though no official action was taken.
Ouyang, whose birth name is Ngeo Boon Lin, is part of the clergy at New York's Metropolitan Community Church, which mainly serves gay, bisexual and transgender people.