TAIWAN has become the first Asian country to approve same-sex marriage after parliamentarians voted in favour a bill that made lesbian and gay rights legal across the island nation.
Passed earlier this week, the new bill will allow same-sex couples to officially register their marriages from May 24 and comes after a 2017 Constitutional Court ruling that gave the government two years to enact laws protecting the equal rights to marriage of gay couples. Tens of thousands of gay rights supporters, who turned out in spite of heavy rain, cheered outside the parliament building in central Taipei after lawmakers voted in favour of the bill.
Prominent gay rights activist Chi Chia-wei, said: “The first in Asia. Taiwan’s human rights.”
Taiwan’s Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership Rights welcomed the move, saying it opened a whole new page in history. It is particularly pleased that the vote comes as gay rights activists around the world mark the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.
Chien Chih-chieh, the alliance’s secretary general, said: “I and my partner will go and register our marriage on May 24 when the household registration office opens. Just can’t wait any longer.”
Taiwan’s new special law covers issues ranging from inheritance rights, medical rights, adoption of children to monogamy and also stipulates penalties for adultery and bigamy. After the legislation was passed, some lawmakers in favour of the new law called for more social inclusion.
Ruling Democratic Progressive Party legislator Yu Mei-nu, said: “You will find that the sun still rises in the east and what you worried about same-sex marriage doesn’t exist at all.”
New Power Party lawmaker Freddy Lim added that he found that some legislators had made comments containing false information about lesbian gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) people.
Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen said this was a day Taiwan should be proud of. She added: “The world will see Taiwan as a progressive country because legal protection of love is equally given to everybody.”
Anti-marriage equality groups, however, expressed their dismay, saying lawmakers ignored a 2018 referendum result showing the people’s will that marriage should be defined as a union between one man and one woman. Coalition for the Happiness of Our Next Generation convener, Yu Hsin-yi, said: “A death knell for our traditional human relationships is ringing.”
Most Asian countries like those in Africa are bitterly opposed to gay marriage, seeing it as an affront to their moral values. In Nigeria for instance, being gay attracts a 14 year jail term, with only South Africa have a liberal attitude towards homosexuality.