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Taiwan's parliament has become the first in Asia to pass legislation for same-sex marriage

Debate is ongoing over what, if any, provisions will be made for same-sex couples to adopt.

Supporters gathered outside the legislative Yan in Taipei, Taiwan
Supporters gathered outside the legislative Yan in Taipei, Taiwan
Image: Chiang Ying-ying

TAIWAN HAS BECOME the first country in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage. 

In a landmark move for the continent, lawmakers passed a bill allowing same-sex couples to form “exclusive permanent unions” and introduced a clause that would let them apply for a “marriage registration” with government agencies. 

The vote is a major victory for the island’s LGBT community and it places it at the fore of Asia’s burgeoning gay rights movement.

President Tsai Ing-wen hailed the vote as a “big step towards true equality” that “made Taiwan a better country.”

Two years ago Taiwan’s top court ruled that not allowing same-sex couples to marry violates the constitution with judges giving the government until 24 May, 2019 to make the changes or see marriage equality enacted automatically.

Tsai had previously spoken in favour of gay marriage but was later accused of dragging her feet after the court judgement, fearful of a voter backlash. 

Taiwan goes to the polls in January and the gay marriage issue could hamper Tsai’s chances of re-election.

Thousands of gay rights supporters gathered outside parliament in Taipei, despite heavy downpours, waving rainbow flags, flashing victory signs and breaking into cheers as the news filtered out.

In recent months, conservatives mobilised to rid the law of any reference to marriage, instead putting forward rival bills that offered something closer to limited same-sex unions – but those bills struggled to receive enough votes.

Gay rights groups said the ability to apply for a “marriage registration” – known as clause four – put their community much closer to parity with heterosexual couples.

“The passage of clause four ensures that two persons of the same-sex can register their marriage on 24 May and ensure that Taiwan becomes the first country in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage” the Taiwan Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership Rights said. 

Other key sections of the law were still being debated and voted on Friday, including what, if any, provisions there will be for same-sex couples to adopt. 

That resulted in more muted celebrations outside parliament as gay marriage supporters continued to keep a close eye on voting. 

Other Asian countries including Afghanistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Yemen have some of the strictest laws, including punishment by death, for LGBT+ communities.

Whatever the result, the law will not bring full equality with heterosexual couples, as even the most progressive version only offers biological adoptions.

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Gay rights groups have said they were willing to accept compromises, as long as the new law recognised the concept of marriage, adding they could fight legal battles over surrogacy and adoption down the line.

“In Taiwan, a marriage will take effect when it’s registered, so allowing marriage registration is no doubt recognising the marriage itself,” Victoria Hsu, a gay rights lawyer said.  

In the last decade, Taiwan has been one of the most progressive societies in Asia when it comes to gay rights, staging the continent’s biggest annual gay pride parade.

Seven US states have tightened their abortion laws so far this year, including high-profile cases in Alabama and Georgia. Why is this happening now – and could abortion end up being restricted across the US? Or even banned? Sinead O’Carroll, Aoife Barry and Christine Bohan look for answers in the latest episode of The Explainer, our new podcast.

Source: The Explainer/SoundCloud

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