Gay pastor holds wedding banquet in Malaysia

A gay Malaysian pastor said Monday he had held a wedding banquet with his American partner despite earlier outrage by conservatives in the Muslim-majority country opposed to their union.

Ngeo Boon Lin, who has authored a number of books on gay and other issues under the name Ouyang Wen Feng, said he held the private, traditional Chinese wedding celebration at a restaurant in the capital Kuala Lumpur on Saturday.

"I wanted to inspire others to speak the truth and to stand up for our rights," he told AFP.

Ngeo married his partner, African-American Broadway musical producer Phineas Newborn III, last year in New York, where they live. That came shortly after same-sex marriages were legalised there.

Homosexuality remains a largely taboo subject in Malaysia -- sodomy is punishable by 20 years in prison -- and Ngeo came under attack from Islamic and Christian figures alike when he first announced his wedding plans.

Ngeo said it was important for him to hold the banquet in Malaysia to show that gays should not be cowed.

"The answer is simple, namely we should not threaten others and I must show to others that people don't like to be threatened either," Ngeo, 42, said in emailed comments to AFP from the couple's honeymoon in Vietnam.

He said the banquet was attended by at least 250 friends from Malaysia and abroad and the couple faced no opposition in arranging it.

Ngeo plans to return to Malaysia later in the week before returning to New York later in the month.

Ngeo faced outrage and threats when he opened the first gay-friendly church just outside Kuala Lumpur in 2007.

He regularly returns to Malaysia and elsewhere in Asia to promote gay awareness.

Influential Malaysian religious figures and political conservatives remain vehemently opposed to the growing prominence of the country's gay community.

Authorities last year banned an annual gay-themed festival, featuring gay-oriented films, concerts and forums, while a prominent religious body in 2008 issued a fatwa against lesbian sex.

After Ngeo announced his wedding plans last year, Islamic Affairs Minister Jamil Khir Baharom denounced same-sex marriages as "extremism that... will create social problems".

Other officials and some Christian leaders also condemned Ngeo's nuptials.

Ngeo said gays should not let anything "paralyse us or scare us to silence".

"We should not be short-sighted and discouraged by unwanted backlash... We should not succumb to fear!" he said in his email.

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