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Malaysia's only openly gay pastor said he would go ahead with plans to wed his American partner on his country's national day despite criticism from leaders in the Muslim-majority nation.
Reverend Ouyang Wen Feng said the government would not be able to disrupt his plans to marry on August 31 in New York, where same-sex marriages were recently legalised, nor to have a Chinese wedding banquet in his home country next year.
"Don't I have the right to invite my friends to have meals with me in (a) restaurant in Malaysia?" Ouyang said in an email to AFP over the weekend.
"The world is watching. Malaysia cannot afford to jeopardise her image as a moderate country the government is trying to portray," he added.
Homosexuality remains a largely taboo subject in Malaysia, and sodomy is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
Islamic Affairs minister Jamil Khir Baharom said earlier this month that same-sex marriages, such as Ouyang's, were not allowed under the country's civil laws.
"We agree with human rights, but such extremism that allows man and man to marry will create social problems," local media quoted Jamil as saying.
Others, such as the chief minister of a southern state and several Christian leaders, have also condemned Ouyang's plan, according to local media.
But Ouyang said more and more Malaysians were starting to accept homosexuality - a "sea change in public opinion."
"Even though I know many people in Malaysia are not OK with gay marriage, the more remarkable fact is that more and more people are informed about what is homosexuality and the support for gay people is growing steadily," he said.
Ouyang faced outrage and threats when he opened the first gay-friendly church just outside Kuala Lumpur in 2007.
He now lives in the United States but regularly returns to Malaysia and other parts of Asia to promote awareness of homosexuality.
In a recent interview with AFP, the journalist-turned-pastor urged homosexuals in Malaysia to "keep coming out" to help battle homophobia.
Ouyang said his partner, an African-American Broadway musical producer, proposed to him on June 26 - two days after New York City legalised same-sex marriages.
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