Thousands of marriage-equality advocates celebrated Friday in the pouring rain outside Taiwan’s legislature as it voted to become the first in Asia to fully legalize same-sex unions.
The law — which allows for same-sex couples to apply for “marriage registration” as part of “exclusive permanent unions” — came a week before Taiwan’s codes barring same-sex marriage would have been automatically dropped by court order.
Lawmakers had faced pressure from both LGBT groups demanding sweeping reforms and religious groups and others opposing the changes. Friday’s 66-27 vote recognizes same-sex marriages and gives couples many of the tax, insurance and child custody benefits available to male-female married couples.
Taiwan’s high court ruled on May 24, 2017, that barring same-sex couples from marrying violates the Taiwanese constitution and gave the legislature two years to pass a corresponding law or see same-sex marriage become legalized automatically.
The process frequently stalled amid conservative opposition. But in November 2018, Taiwan voted in a public referendum to deny same-sex couples full marriage rights.
Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) responded by submitting legislation designed to comply with both the court ruling and the referendum result. Two competing bills that would be less favorable to the gay community were submitted, but they failed to gain traction.
The law could give the DPP and President Tsai Ing-wen a boost ahead of a presidential election in January. Gay rights advocates have long criticized the ruling party for failing to pass legislation sooner, but these concerns were largely absent amid the mood of optimism at Friday’s rally.
In neighboring China — which asserts sovereignty over Taiwan — popular LGBTQ microblogs were censored online in the wake of Taiwan’s 2017 high court ruling. The social media platform Weibo was criticized last month for restricting LGBTQ hashtags.
Taiwan has shown that “traditional culture is not against LGBT culture,” said Jennifer Lu, coordinator of the rights group Marriage Equality Coalition Taiwan. “That’s the message we want to send to the world.”
Before Friday’s vote, legislators in Taiwan’s opposition Kuomintang (KMT) party had rallied to promote a bill that would not define same-sex unions as “marriages.” On Thursday evening, the DPP amended its draft legislation to remove references to “same-sex marriages” while ensuring that same-sex couples would nonetheless be allowed to register marriages.
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[Editor’s Note: This article was written by Mick Aspenwall and originally published at The Washington Post. Title changed by P&P.]
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