Marriage equality supporters stood outside parliament to celebrate the landmark accomplishment. Source: AFP
On Friday, May 17th, 2019, Taiwan became the first Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage. Two years after the constitutional court ruled that same-sex marriage is legal—and that to define marriage as only between a man and a woman is unconstitutional—the most progressive bill regarding same-sex marriage has passed by 66 to 27 votes. Two other bills that were submitted by conservative lawmakers, were debated but not passed.
The bill provides homosexual Taiwanese couples with most rights heterosexual couples have, for instance, legally registering as a couple. However, other rights, such as non-biological adoption rights and cross-cultural marriages, are still not fully addressed.
“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,” a gay pastor, Elias Tseng, told the AFP news agency outside Parliament, among a crowd of around 40,000 supporters, celebrating marriage quality.
Throughout history, Taiwan has been relatively liberal with gay rights—compared with its neighbors—having hosted the biggest annual gay pride parade in the continent. However, this belief is not shared among most Taiwanese, particularly those outside urban areas. 70 percent of voters in Taipei demand to keep the legal definition of marriage limited to between a man and a woman, according to AFP.
For this reason, Tseng Hsien-ying, president of the Coalition for the Happiness of our Next Generation said, “Democracy is dead.”
Despite the criticisms, this accomplishment is praised by other nations in Asia. A Singaporean, Paul Ng, told the BBC that it was “an occasion to celebrate, even though we’re not Taiwanese. It’s a success for us, for all gay people.” Others say this law will raise awareness about the acceptance of same-sex marriage. However, this impact is questionable in other conservative countries, like China, which limit dialogues and portrayals of same-sex relationships.
Same-sex marriage in China remains illegal, while homosexuality has been decriminalized since 1997. Vietnam decriminalized same-sex marriage in 2015, but no further effort has been made to fully recognize same-sex marriage legally. In Cambodia, no laws have been created regarding the LGBTQ community, though the government discourages discrimination against the community.
Other more conservative countries, for instance, Brunie had a completely different approach. In April it passed a law that gay sex is punishable by stoning.
In spite of that, the law hopes to inspire the region to alleviate LGBTQ+ struggles. “We hope this landmark vote will generate waves across Asia and offer a much-needed boost in the struggle for equality for LGBTI people in the region,” Annie Huang, Acting Director of Amnesty International Taiwan, said in an article from Amenesty International.
This historic success for the LGBTQ+ community in this region has shown other Asian countries that their enduring culture can also be progressive and diverse.
By Thathiny Tep