Taiwan Makes History As The First Country To Legalize Same-Sex Marriage In Asia

Taiwan made history as the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage after a ruling of a high court made on Wednesday recognizing the union of two people with same sexual orientation. Al Jazeera reports that 12 out of 14 judges of the Judicial Yuan agree that the marriage laws currently in place "violate the constitutional rights of same-sex couples."

LGBT community in Taiwan hold placards and slogans during rally.
File Photo from 2016 rally of LGBT Community in their petition to legalize same- sex marriages.[Image by Chiang Ying-ying/ AP Images)

Ministry of Culture posted tweets about the same-sex ruling using #loveislove even attaching a copy of a press release issued by the constitutional court further detailing on the decision. Chia Wei Chi and Huei Tai are the people behind the filing of the petition questioning the constitutionality of Article 972 of the Civil Code which states that marriage is between a man and a woman.

In the press release, the court recognizes that the needs of heterosexuals are the same of the homosexuals and should be given the same protection under Article 22 of the constitution. The court ruling also cited Article 7 of the Constitution which states that "all citizens of the Republic of China, irrespective of sex, religion, race, class, or party affiliation, shall be equal before the law." The ruling also tackled on procreation in same-sex marriages citing "disallowing two persons of the same sex to marry, for their sake of inability to reproduce, is a different treatment having no rational basis." Likewise, the court sees it as irrational not to allow same-sex couples to marry just because of ethical orders.

Two years are given to authorities to make necessary amendments. The discretion is given to them on how to enact or implement changes in accordance with the court's decision. If after two years changes are not completed, same-sex couples who wish to marry are given the chance to apply for their marriage registration and will be legally recognized provided they submit a document signed by two or more witnesses.

The court's decision, although applauded by LGBT communities worldwide being the first in Asia, was met with protests from conservative groups. It is believed that in the time frame given by the court, it is likely for the groups to call for a referendum. Adrian Brown of Al Jazeera said that the conservatives are "angry and disappointed."

Andrew Chang, a spokesman from the Alliance of Religious Groups for the Love of Families Taiwan, deems that "family conflicts will increase and the whole definition of marriage will be changed," also mentioning of recognition of such union as a disruption on ancestral lineage and family structure. In addition to that, he finds it "unnatural and harmful" for two people with the same sexual orientation to have sex.

Despite the oppositions from various sects and groups, lawyer Huang Di-ying believes that "it will be a barometer of human rights protection in the region as Asia follows the United States' and Europe's steps to recognize same-sex marriages."

Other countries that are seen likely to follow Taiwan's move are Thailand and Cambodia. In 2015, Thailand passed the Gender Equality Act being the first law in the country to protect the LGBT community. The decree aims to protect anyone from being discriminated against his or her gender identity or sexual orientation. Those who are caught violating the law are punishable up to six months of jail time and a fine of 20,000 baht.

Thailand is known to have a large base of LGBT and the government allows its trans citizens to legally change their gender but not same-sex marriages. However, talks of legalizing same-sex marriages were brought up in 2012 but were shelved due to political unrest.

Similarly, Cambodia is also seen to likely follow Taiwan with Forbes reports that in 2011, Cambodia "repealed a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage" with even influential authorities favoring a follow-up law.

[Featured Image by Chiang Ying-ying/ AP Images]