Taiwan Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage in a First for Asia

One week before the assigned two-year deadline, Taiwanese lawmakers passed a bill where same-sex couples can register as a married couple with government agencies.
May 17, 2019, 9:53am
taiwan same-sex marriage equality lgbtq
A couple kisses as they celebrate the legalization of same-sex marriage in Taiwan. Photo by Tyrone Siu/Reuters

A version of this article originally appeared on VICE Asia.

In a historic first for Asia, Taiwan implemented a law that legalizes same-sex marriage on Friday, May 17—which also happens to be the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. Tens of thousands of supporters took to the streets of Taipei to celebrate as lawmakers announced the monumental decision in favor of marriage equality.

“On May 17th, 2019 in #Taiwan, #LoveWon,” Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen tweeted. “We took a big step towards true equality, and made Taiwan a better country.”

The news comes only one week before the two-year deadline set by Taiwan’s Constitutional Court in 2017 to amend or enact new laws, and represents the end of a process that has been stalled by vocal opposition from conservative groups. Instead of amending the Civil Code’s definition of marriage as being only between a man and a woman, the new law explicitly legalizes same-sex marriage.

After examining three drafts of the bill, lawmakers passed the only version that used the term “marriage,” which had been backed by progressive LGBTQ+ groups. The two other bills had been pushed by conservative groups and offered extremely limited rights, and only recognized same-sex unions with fewer protections and benefits.

The decision was a sigh of relief for many advocates after a disappointing referendum last year, in which 67 percent of eligible Taiwanese voters said no to same-sex marriage only six months after Taiwan's highest court ruled in favor of it.

The historic ruling and the explosive turnout of citizens celebrating the win reflects Taiwan’s position as a progressive country that may lead by example for the rest of Asia. The law will go into effect on May 24.

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