Taiwan becomes first in Asia to legalise gay marriage

Taiwan becomes first in Asia to legalises gay marriage

(BBC) Taiwan’s parliament has become the first in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage following a vote on Friday.

In 2017, the island’s constitutional court ruled that same-sex couples had the right to legally marry.

Parliament was given a two-year deadline and was required to pass the changes by 24 May.

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

Hundreds of gay rights supporters gathered in the rain outside the parliament building in the capital, Taipei, to await the landmark ruling.

There were shouts of joy and some tearful embraces as the result was announced.

However, conservative opponents were angered by the vote.

What does the bill entail?

The two other bills, submitted by conservative lawmakers, refer to partnerships as “same-sex family relationships” or “same-sex unions” rather than “marriages”.

But the government’s bill, also the only one to offer limited adoption rights, was passed by 66 to 27 votes – backed by lawmakers from the majority Democratic Progressive Party.

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It will take effect after Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen passes it into law.

Several same-sex activists had said ahead of the vote that this was the only version they would accept.

“The fight for equality does not stop here. We will continue to fight against discrimination, bullying and defend gender equality education”, Jennifer Lu, chief co-ordinator of rights group Marriage Equality Coalition Taiwan, told Reuters news agency.

“For me the outcome today is not 100 percent perfect, 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.

Taiwanese singer Jolin Tsai posted a picture of a rainbow on Facebook accompanied by the caption “Congratulations!! Everyone deserves happiness!”

How did we get here?

In 2017, Taiwan’s constitutional court ruled that same-sex couples had the right to legally marry.

It said then that the island had two years to make necessary changes to the law.

But this was met with a public backlash, which pressured the government into holding a series of referendums.

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As a result, Taiwan said it would not alter its existing definition of marriage in civil law, and instead would enact a special law for same-sex marriage.

What reaction has there been?

Many took to social media in celebration, seeing the result as a win for marriage equality.

“What a tremendous victory for LGBT rights!” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

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

Earlier on Friday, Ms Tsai said in a tweet that the island had taken “a big step towards true equality” with the vote.

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