Taiwan First Asia Country To Legalize Same Sex Marriage
There were tears of joy among Taiwan’s LGBT community on Friday after same-sex marriage was legalised in a historic first for Asia.
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.
The panel of judges instructed MPs to amend or enact new laws before 24 May 2019. The new bill will now go into effect next week and gay couples are already lining up to officially wed.
The landmark decision cements Taiwan’s reputation as a beacon of liberalism in a region where the LGBT community faces increasing persecution, and will give a long-awaited boost to Asia’s burgeoning gay rights movement.
Thousands of LGBT activists and gay rights supporters who braved heavy rain outside the national parliament during the vote, waved rainbow flags and cheered as the decision was announced.
The LGBT community had expressed increasing disillusionment with ruling politicians as parliament delayed passing legislation ahead of important local elections last November.
The law survived a last-minute attempt to water it down by conservative lawmakers CREDIT: AFP
While democratic Taiwan has been one of the most progressive societies in Asia in terms of respecting gay rights – it hosts the region’s biggest annual gay pride parade – much of the population remains deeply conservative.
Conservative and religious groups celebrated a controversial referendum victory in November in which 67 per cent of voters rejected the definition of marriage as anything other than a union between a man and a woman.
As next week’s deadline approached, conservatives had mobilised to remove any reference to marriage in the new law, instead proposing watered-down rival bills that offered a solution closer to limited same-sex unions.
Instead, the only successful piece of legislation was one which used the term “marriage.”
It was supported by LGBT groups, even though it did not offer full equality with heterosexual couple.
The new legislation only allows for biological adoption and marriages with foreigners will not be recognised.
Taiwan’s LGBT community is celebrating the vote CREDIT: CARL COURT/GETTY IMAGES
Gay rights groups, however, accepted the compromise of being granted the right to a “marriage registration” as a move that would bring them closer parity to heterosexual couples, while vowing to fight in future for equal access to surrogacy and adoption.
Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan’s president, tweeted a rainbow flag following the vote, adding: “On May 17th, 2019 in #Taiwan, #LoveWon.
We took a big step towards true equality, and made Taiwan a better country.”
Ms Tsai had signalled her support for marriage equality ahead of her election in 2016 but has since remained largely silent on the issue, with critics accusing her of being cowed by low public approval ratings.
With a new presidential election looming next year, the conservative Coalition for the Happiness of Our Next Generation accused her of promoting the bill to attract young voters.
However, the vote for marriage equality has been welcomed around the world. Jeremy Hunt, the British foreign secretary, congratulated the people of Taiwan on Twitter.
“Great news for its LGBT community and another huge step forward for LGBT equality in Asia,” he said.