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Taiwan parliament becomes first in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage

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Supporters of same-sex marriage outside Parliament during Friday's vote, Taipei May 17 2019 REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Same-sex marriage has been legalised in Taiwan in a landmark parliamentary vote, as the government saw out a late attempt by conservatives to pass watered-down legislation.


The bill, approved on the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, is the first of its kind to be approved in Asia. 

Gay rights groups hailed the vote – in particular Clause Four, which allows same sex couples to apply for marriage registration with government agencies – as a means of putting their community on par with heterosexual couples.

The clause is to come into effect on 24 May and ensures that “Taiwan becomes the first country in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage and to successfully open a new page in history”, the Taiwan Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership Rights.

Leaders of the movement

Taiwan's LGBTQ community has campaigned for years for equal marriage rights and is seen as the leader of the growing gay rights movement across Asia.

Just two years ago, Taiwan’s top court ruled that prohibiting same-sex couples to marry would in fact violate the constitution.

Judges gave the government until 24 May 2019 to make the necessary changes before marriage equality would be enacted automatically.

In Friday’s parliamentary session, other key sections that were debated and voted on included what provisions would be available for same-sex couples looking to adopt a child.

Gay rights groups had previously mentioned that they were willing to accept compromises so long as the new law recognises the concept of marriage. They said they could take up the fight for surrogacy and adoption later on.

Conservative island

The island remains conservative, particularly beyond the urban centre, but in the last decade it has become one of Asia’s most progressive societies, especially in gay rights.

In a Facebook post by President Tsai Ing-wen, she recognised that the issue of marriage had come to divide “families, generations and even inside religious group”.

Ahead of Friday’s vote, she tweeted: “Today we have a chance to make history & show the world that progressive values can take root in an East Asian society. 

"Today, we can show the world that #LoveWins."