Taiwan first country in Asia to legalize gay marriage

Taiwan became the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage on May 17, which went into effect on May 24.

Taiwan’s Constitutional Court ruled that same-sex couples had the right to legal marriage in 2017 and gave Parliament a two-year deadline to create laws legalizing and protecting same-sex marriage. The new legislation was passed a week before the end of the two-year deadline.

Lawmakers in the Taiwanese Parliament debated three bills before passing the most progressive option, according to BBC. The bill passed 66-27 and was the only option to use the word “marriages” over “same-sex unions” or “relationships.” The bill was also the only option to lay out limited adoption rights for couples of the same sex.

“I’m very surprised—but also very happy,” Jennifer Lu, chief coordinator of rights group Marriage Equality Coalition Taiwan, told BBC. “It’s a very important moment in my life. However, it’s still not full marriage rights; we still need to fight for co-adoption rights, and we are not sure about [foreign] and Taiwanese marriage and also gender equality education.”

Since the beginning of the legislation process, conservatives in Taiwan have attempted to limit the extent of the bill, pushing for “same-sex unions” over marriages, according to CNN. In November 2018, 67% of voters were against civil code marriage regulations being “used to guarantee the rights of same-sex couples to get married,” despite the large LGBTQ+ community in Taiwan.

“It’s a breakthrough, I have to say so,” Shiau Hong-chi, professor of gender studies and communications at Shih-Hsin University in Taiwan, told NBC News. “I could not imagine that could happen in just a few years.”

According to Pew Research, over two dozen countries have legalized gay marriage. The majority of these countries are located in Europe and the Americas. Two countries to legalize gay marriage in 2019 so far are Austria and Taiwan.

“For me the outcome today is not 100% 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 Agence France-Presse outside parliament.

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen publicly backed the passed legislation before the vote and praised its passing afterward. “We took a big step toward true equality and made Taiwan a better country,” she tweeted after the vote on May 17.

On May 24, the first day same-sex marriages were officially legal, 526 couples were wed, according to Taiwan News. Among these were 185 male couples and 341 female couples.