Same-sex couples in Taiwan celebrate new marriages after ban is lifted

Same-sex couples in Taiwan celebrate new marriages after ban is lifted

Last week we heard the wonderful news that Taiwan's parliament legalised same-sex marriage, becoming the first country in Asia to take this pivotal step.

In 2017, the constitutional court ruled that these couples would have the right to marry, giving the government two years to pass these changes. The bills were discussed and eventually passed by 66 to 27 votes. The deadline for the changes was Friday 24 May, and now those couples who were unable to marry before are coming out to celebrate.

"The [government's] bill is already our bottom line, we won't accept any more compromise," Jennifer Lu, the chief coordinator of rights group Marriage Equality Coalition Taiwan told Reuters before the historic vote, in which the government's more progressive version of the bill came through.

Here's the moment the bill passed:

Up to 280 couples are predicted to get married on this day, now that the law has passed. Government offices opened at 8:30am (Taiwanese time) on Friday, and after a brief registration process, couples have started to tie the knot. According to AFP, 150 couples are expected to wed in the capital city of Taipei alone.

Couples have already begun taking to social media to celebrate their declarations of love, now free to be fully recognised by their country.

Last November, a referendum took note of the public's reaction to the idea of marriage outside the norm of a heterosexual coupling - and it didn't inspire much confidence for the LGBTQ+ community in the country.

72 per cent of Taiwan voted against the idea of same-sex marriage, showing that there is still plenty of opposition to face following the historic vote. It has been said that the word 'marriage' may be removed from the bill to appease conservative lawmakers.

Fortunately, the referendum's choice to favour marriage between a man and woman did not impact the supreme court's decision to legalise same-sex marriage. Following the momentous decision, around 40,000 people took to the streets of Taipei to show their support for the decision on May 17.

Chi Chia-wei, the first person to publicly come out as gay in Taiwan in 1986, has been petitioning the government for almost 30 years to make this decision. After his various campaigns to push forward the new bill, he's now hoping that other Asian countries follow their example.

"Taiwan has taken a big step, other countries will not need another 30 years to get there," the 60-year-old told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "We did not achieve this overnight. If Taiwan can do it, what about all the other Asian giants?"

Despite his support of the bill, Chi was more interested in helping others get married than doing so himself. "This is never about me or my partner. I did it because I knew many other same-sex couples who needed the legal protections," he said. "Life goes on for me."

There is still some way to go, with conservative attitudes on the subject dominating many Asian countries, with Malaysia, Myanmar and Singapore banning sexual relationships between men. Thailand has drafted a civil partnership bill and Vietnam allows gay marriage ceremonies without the same legal protections as heterosexual couples.