Published: Sat, May 18, 2019

Taiwan becomes first in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage

Taiwan becomes first in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage

Religion, conservative values and political systems that discourage LGBT activism have slowed momentum toward same-sex marriage in many Asian countries from Japan through much of Southeast Asia, although Thailand is exploring the legalization of same-sex civil partnerships.

Thanks to that movement, parliament approved Asia's first bill Friday to legalize same-sex marriage along with a suite of legal protections, such as insurance and inheritance benefits.

Taiwan's top court has ruled that not allowing same-sex couples to marry violates the constitution. It gave the legislature two years to work amend laws accordingly, and set May 24 as a deadline for the changes.

Same-sex marriage supporters hold roses to mourn those who committed suicide due to discrimination during a parliament vote on three draft bills of a same-sex marriage law, outside the Legislative Yuan in Taipei. "I'm deeply moved", said Liu Tzu-wei, waiting in the rain for the ruling outside the legislature.

It is backed - begrudgingly - by gay rights groups who see it as the closest thing to full equality with heterosexual couples, despite its limitations.

"We will have a clear answer this week about how this country will treat gay couples in the future", said Jennifer Lu, a spokeswoman for Marriage Equality Coalition Taiwan.

When the referendum was held last November, voters indicated they overwhelmingly opposed it.

Lawmakers debated three different bills to legalise same-sex unions and the government's bill, the most progressive of the three, was passed.

"For me the outcome today is not 100 percent ideal, but it's still pretty good for the gay community as it provides legal definition", said Elias Tseng, a gay pastor who spoke to the AFP news agency outside parliament.

The new special law covers issues ranging from inheritance rights, medical rights, adoption of children to monogamy.

Taiwan's acceptance of gay and lesbian relationships began in the 1990s when leaders in today's ruling Democratic Progressive Party championed the cause to help Taiwan stand out in Asia as an open society.

Same-sex marriage supporters gather outside the Legislative Yuan in Taipei, Taiwan.

"How can we ignore the result of the referendums, which demonstrated the will of the people?" said John Wu, a lawmaker from the opposition Kuomintang party, according to Reuters.

Hsu said she and her partner had made plans to register as a married couple as soon as the law went into effect on 24 May, at the same office that rejected their attempt to marry five years ago.

"If these kinds of people can be more visible, happening in our everyday life, I think that will be quite good", said Shiau Hong-chi, professor of gender studies and communications management at Shih-Hsin University in Taiwan.

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