A viral same-sex wedding video from Edmonton in Alberta sparked a major conversation across the world in Sri Lanka, where gay marriage is actually a crime. Read on for the full story.
Back in October of 2019, Edmonton couple Sithara and Jenn Fernando tied the knot in a ceremony that combined both Singhalese and western traditions. Part of their wedding included the Poruwa ceremony, which invites both families to join the couple on a beautifully decorated platform.
After the wedding, Sithara told CBC Radio Active, “One of the things that was really important to me, and Jenn, was basically that we wanted to show that you can be queer and still celebrate your culture.”
The couple shared highlights from their ceremony on YouTube (video below), where it’s already reached over 660,000 views and nearly 6,000 likes.
So, how does a video shared over a year ago suddenly spark conversation on the other side of the world, in a country where same-sex marriage is a crime? It started when a Sinhala-language Facebook page posted the video just last weekend. Since then, it’s been shared over 7,000 times.
Sithara said that she got a call from her mother last Tuesday, who told her that she was getting congratulatory calls from people all over Sri Lanka. Sithara’s parents -who emigrated to Canada back in the 1980s- have always been very supportive of her relationship with Jenn.
She remarked that the whole thing is “pretty shocking” for her and Jenn. They were happy back when the video first went up and a few hundred people viewed it. Sithara said that they “sort of forgot about it” after that.
Social media comments divided
The video currently has over 400 comments, most of which are kind and joyous. Among them,
- “Wow, this is such a beautiful video! I love the song choice and it brought me to tears. I am glad you live in a world where you are loved and accepted by your parents and loved ones. Congrats, ladies!!” – Breanna Coonan
- “Love this video and love the two of you! Wishing you a marriage filled with happiness and health!”- Sandra Moore
- “Live long and love it all ladies. A wonderful celebration of your love. I can appreciate the positive affirmation of same-sex partnerships your example is having in Sri Lanka. Joy and Peace Always.” -Mitch
- “I’m a transgender based in Mumbai I felt pretty emotional myself looking at this video.. Time has come things will be fine here too when soon someday God willing LGBT community should be able to get married lawfully.. God bless ?” – shelovveeesfash 24by7
However, not all comments were supportive. A viewer that goes by the screen name “Puppy Lover” wrote,
I’m a Sri lankan buddhist and I don’t approve of this. The poruwa symbolises the marriage of Sri Siddhartha and Princess Yashodara.? It should not be used for things like this. Sad that I had to see this.
A few others just left ambiguous comments like “My god,” and “..I do not know what kind of world this is.” Then there’s a viewer that goes by “GAA,” who threw Christian bible quotes at the couple, writing, “Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what are they doing.’ Amen.”
Still, Sithara told CBC that there are plenty of comments talking about how things need to change and evolve. According to CBC, the couple also received many Facebook messages from strangers “who said they never knew they could have such a wedding and had talked to their parents about a same-sex marriage..” Sithara added,
“It is also really encouraging to see that our little wedding video is starting conversations in places that we never sort of thought these conversations could happen.”
As of 2021, same-sex relationships period (not just marriages) are considered criminal acts under Sri Lankan law. While the Supreme Court of the nation condemned those laws back in 2016, they’re still on the books. Sithara is “super happy” that her wedding video sparked so much conversation. She said,
“Both of us struggled to come out of the closet, both of us struggled to sort of find people in mainstream media or in fringe media that reflected who we are and to be able to be that example for somebody else is a huge thing.”
Her wife Jenn added,
“It was surprising, looking through some of the comments and just seeing that there’s a discussion there. A lot of people were just like, ‘Oh, I don’t know how I feel about this exactly…Love is love…I’m just so glad that I’m surrounded by people who support me and that people can see that from around the world.”