Taiwan parliament endorses same-sex marriage

May 17, 2019 15:33
Same-sex marriage supporters shout outside the parliament in Taipei on Friday during a vote on draft bills of a same-sex marriage law. Photo: Reuters

Taiwan parliament on Friday approved a same-sex marriage bill, paving way for the self-ruled island to become the first jurisdiction in Asia to legalize "permanent unions" between gay couples.

Lawmakers from the majority Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) backed the bill, which passed 66 to 27, Reuters reports.

Thousands of demonstrators cheered and waved rainbow flags outside parliament in Taipei following the landmark vote. 

Despite heavy rain, the supporters embraced tearfully while others hailed the vote with chants of “Asia’s first,” and “Way to go, Taiwan!”

The bill, which offers same-sex couples similar legal protections for marriage as heterosexuals, will take effect after President Tsai Ing-wen signs it into law, the report noted.

“Today, we have a chance to make history and show the world that progressive values can take root in an East Asian society,” Tsai wrote on Twitter before the vote.

“Today, we can show the world that #LoveWins,” added Tsai, who campaigned on a promise of marriage equality in the 2016 presidential election.

The vote followed a years-long tussle over marriage equality that culminated in a 2017 declaration by the island’s constitutional court giving same-sex couples the right to marry, and setting a deadline of May 24 for legislation.

Taipei’s colorful gay pride parade, one of Asia’s largest, puts on display every year the vibrancy of the island’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

However, Friday’s measure could prove a challenge to Tsai’s bid for a second term in a January presidential election, after a poll defeat last year for her DPP was blamed partly on criticism of her reform agenda, including marriage equality, Reuters noted.

Late last year, Taiwan voters opposed same-sex marriage in a series of referendums, defining marriage as being between a man and a woman, while seeking a special law for such unions.

“How can we ignore the result of the referendums, which demonstrated the will of the people?” John Wu, a legislator from the opposition Kuomintang party, asked parliament before Friday’s vote.

“Can we find an appropriate compromise solution? We need more dialogue in society.”

Conservative groups that oppose same-sex marriage said the legislation disrespects the people’s will.

“The will of some seven million people in the referendum has been trampled,” one group, the Coalition for the Happiness of Our Next Generation said in a statement.

“The massive public will strike back in 2020.”

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