Taiwan approves same-sex marriage in first for Asia

Sergio Conner
May 18, 2019

Taiwan's parliament voted to legalise same-sex marriage on Friday, becoming the first in Asia to do so.

Tens of thousands of gay rights supporters, who turned out in spite of heavy rain, cheered outside the parliament building in central Taipei after lawmakers voted in favour of the bill.

In November 2018, a majority of Taiwan voters rejected same-sex marriage in an advisory referendum. She has spoken for same-sex marriage several times since she was elected in January 2016. "Today, we can show the world that #LoveWins".

The vote by Taiwan's parliament came two years after the self-ruled island's constitutional court ruled that not allowing same-sex couples to marry was a violation of the constitution, and told the parliament to take action to enforce its judgement.

At least 20 same-sex couples are planning a mass marriage registration in Taipei on May 24, a spokesman for the advocacy group Marriage Equality Coalition Taiwan said.

Several DPP legislators who have taken a conservative stance on same-sex marriage were absent from the legislative session yesterday, including Huang Kuo-shu (黃國書), Hsu Chih-chieh (許智傑) and Hung Chun-yi (洪宗熠).

Gay rights groups were positive and have said they were willing to accept compromises, as long as the new law recognised the concept of marriage.

Activists said they would continue to push for more rights, such as recognition of transnational same-sex marriages, where one partner is from a country that does not recognise gay marriage. "Many of us were in tears".

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President Tsai Ing-wen is expected to sign the bill before a court deadline to legalize same-sex marriage.

Despite the spread of same-sex marriage in a few regions since 2001, gay and lesbian couples are permitted to marry in only about two dozen of the world's almost 200 countries. "We took a big step towards true equality, and made Taiwan a better country".

Opponents warn that "forcefully" passing a gay marriage law will intensify tensions.

Lai Shyh-bao of the opposition Kuomintang party, who acted as one of the proponents of the "civil union" Bills, however, argued that "The cabinet's bill ignores the referendum results and that is unacceptable".

"Hurrah!" tweeted Phil Robertson, Deputy Asia Director at Human Rights Watch.

The pair has also worked with Taiwan's 20-year-old LGBT movement, which is unusually vibrant for Asia because of free speech protections and lack of a strong organized religion.

The Taiwan Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership Rights told media the vote meant Taiwan is "successfully striding toward a new page of history!" .

The DPP's bill will recognise unions as marriages, the same as heterosexual couples, and define partners as spouses.

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