Today, Taiwan made a historic step by being the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage, reports CNN.
The law has been two years in the making as the self-ruled island’s Constitutional Court ruled on May 24, 2017, that the previous law, which defined marriage as between a man and a woman, was unconstitutional. It was a violation of people’s “freedom of marriage” as well as their “right to equality,” per Buzzfeed.
The courts gave lawmakers two years to amend the situation, after which the courts demanded LGBTQ+ members of Taiwan could apply for marriage licenses. Lawmakers finally approved the gay marriage bill exactly one week before the two year deadline, on May 17. It goes into effect today, May 24.
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen shared his thoughts after last Friday’s historic vote.
“We took a big step towards true equality, and made Taiwan a better country,” the president said.
The statement came after thousands had marched in the streets to show support for marriage equality. Despite pushback from conservative groups, the successful bill was made sure to specifically use the term “marriage.”
Jennifer Lu, chief co-ordinator of rights group Marriage Equality Coalition Taiwan, told the BBC that she was “surprised” at the positive outcome.
“I’m very surprised – but also very happy. It’s a very important moment in my life,” Lu said.
However, there are still some drawbacks: natives from other countries where same-sex marriage is not legal cannot qualify, and same-sex couples also do not have the same rights as heterosexual ones when it comes to adoption. Lu made sure to articulate those concerns.
“It’s still not full marriage rights; we still need to fight for co-adoption rights, and we are not sure about foreigner and Taiwanese marriage, and also gender equality education. It’s a very important moment, but we are going to keep on fighting. We are Taiwanese and we want this important value for our country, for our future.”
Nonetheless, activists hailed the move as a huge step forward for gay rights in Asia. Taiwan is the first nation in the continent to allow the practice.
The Guardian reported that the first same-sex couple was already married in the small island nation. The paper added that local authorities believe that around 300 gay couples are expected to register today.
Taiwan's first official same-sex weddings kicked off Friday in a landmark moment for LGBT rights in Asia as gay couples took the historic step of registering as married, the culmination of a three-decade fight for equality.(Wire photos) | via AFP pic.twitter.com/gIpYpQ0gxh
— The Philippine Star (@PhilippineStar) May 24, 2019
Taiwan’s decision comes at a time when many other Asian nations are cracking down on homosexuality. Last November, a Chinese erotic fiction writer was sentenced to prison for 10 years for writing about a same-sex couple.
Discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community is particularly high in religious countries. In Indonesia, there have been reports of lashings for engaging in homosexuality. Taking an even harsher stand is the Sultan of Brunei, who recently declared homosexuality a crime that is punishable by stoning to death.