A gay couple from the U.S. recently celebrated their wedding ceremony in Malaysia, a risky move in a country that has a criminal ban on homosexual acts.
Malaysian native Ngeo Boon Lin, a self-proclaimed gay pastor, and African-American husband Phineas Newborn III, a Broadway musical producer, officially tied the knot in New York last year, but Lin wanted to have a wedding celebration in his native country of Malaysia.
The New York City couple believes that this is the first ceremony of its kind in the Muslim-dominated, Southeast Asian country, which in the past has maintained conservative viewpoints regarding homosexuals, including banning a gay arts festival.
"We're thankful to be able to make Malaysian history here," Newborn told The Associated Press.
In Malaysia, homosexual acts are punishable by up to 20 years in prison. The country's officials have previously stated that they enlist criminal bans on such behavior because they "fear that this abnormal behavior will be regarded as a norm."
"Islam prohibits deviant sexual orientation or behavior," Abdul Rahman Osman, an Islamic cleric of the Pahang state, was quoted as saying in reference to a 2011 push to criminalize gay acts on both state and federal levels in two Malaysian states.
"Appropriate action should be taken to address these problems. We fear that this abnormal behavior will be regarded as a norm," he added.
"So many people like to promote human rights, even up to the point they want to allow lesbian activities and homosexuality," Mohd Ali Rustamold, chief minister of the Malacca state, told Reuters in 2011.
"In Islam, we cannot do all this. It is against Islamic law," he added.
According to The Associated Press, which spoke to Lin and Newborn, both in their 40s, the Malaysian government expressed concern over Lin's plans to celebrate his same-sex marriage in the country.
Reportedly, one newspaper urged the Malaysian government to prevent Lin from having a wedding celebration in Malaysia for fear that his sexual orientation would cause "extremism" among the 28 million person population, 60 percent of which is Muslim, according to a 2009 country census.
Lin ultimately ignored the public demand and chose to have his party in Malaysia, inviting his mother's family and coworkers to join his one-night celebration.
"It's my right to celebrate my joy with the people I care about," Lin told The Associated Press.