Taiwan Gay Marriage: Parliament Legalises Same-Sex Unions

Taiwan becomes the first Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage following a vote on Friday, giving gay couples the right to marry.

In 2017, Taiwan's constitutional court dictated that same-sex couples have the right to legalize their marriage. And it gave the parliament a maximum period of two years to pass the bill by 24 May 2019.

On Friday, lawmakers passed the part of the bill that'd allow gay couples to enter into "exclusive permanent unions" and apply for marriage registration with government agencies.

Taiwan's president, Tsai Ing-wen, campaigned on the platform of marriage equality. He tweeted after the voting:

"We took a big step towards true equality and made Taiwan a better country."

Thousands of gay supporters gathered in heavy rain outside the parliament building in the Capital, Taipei, to witness a live broadcast of the ruling.

After the vote, the supporters shouted with joy, "First in Asia."

But the conservative opponents were not pleased by the vote.

What Does the Same-Sex Marriage Bill Entail?

Two other bills proposed by conservative lawmakers refer to partnerships as "same-sex family relation" and "same-sex unions" instead of "marriage."

The government bill offering limited adoption rights was passed by 66 to 27 votes. It was backed by a majority of lawmakers from the Democratic Progressive Party.

The bill will pass into law once the signing takes place by Taiwan's president Tsai-wen.

Jennifer Lu, the chief coordinator of Marriage Equity Coalition Taiwan, released a statement after the voting of the bill:

"I'm very surprised - but also very happy. It's a very important moment in my life."

She adds:

"However, it's still not full marriage rights; we still need to fight for co-adoption rights, and we are not sure about the foreigner and Taiwanese marriage, and also gender equality education."

"It's a very important moment, but we are going to keep on fighting. We are Taiwanese and we want this important value for our country, for our future."

Elias Tseng, a gay pastor, also spoke to the AFP news outside the parliament.

He said:

"For me, the outcome today is not 100 percent perfect, but it's still pretty good for the gay community as it provides the legal definition."

How Did We Get Here?

After Taiwan's constitutional court ruled the legalizing of same-sex partnership in 2017, the court gave lawmakers two years to make the necessary changes.

The government was then faced with public backlash, forcing it to hold a series of referendums.

According to referendum results, the majority of voters were against legalizing same-sex marriages. They argued that the definition of marriage is between a man and a woman.

But the government said it wouldn't alter the existing marriage definition. Instead, it'll enact a special law for same-sex marriages.

Taiwan's Same-Sex Marriage Ruling Reactions

The ruling was celebrated by many Taiwanese who have been waiting eagerly for the passing of the bill.

Phil Roberson, deputy Asian director of Human Right Watch, said:

"What a tremendous victory for LGBT rights!"

"Taiwan's action today should sound a clarion call, kicking off a larger movement across Asia to ensure equality for LGBT people."

However, others expressed their opposition towards the voting of the law.

Liu Yan posted on Facebook:

"This is the death of democracy. Seven million people voted against same-sex marriage in the referendum and their votes meant nothing."

"Is same-sex marriage that important and urgent?"

How Does Gay Rights in Taiwan Compare with Other Asian Countries?

Taiwan has been on the lead in the protection of gay rights throughout Asia. It hosts an annual gay parade that invites LGBT groups from across the continent.

People from other countries in the region celebrated the voting of same-sex unions.

Paul Ng, from Singapore, said:

"An occasion to celebrate, even though we're not Taiwanese. It's a success for us, for all gay people."

"For Singaporeans, this is especially important because our government likes to go on and on about preserving 'Asian' values… so this sends a very important message to other developed nations in Asia."