The Democratic Progressive Party, the current ruling party of Taiwan, voted in favor of a bill that legalized same-sex marriage on May 17, making Taiwan the first country in Asia to do so. Tsai Ing-Wen, the president of Taiwan, celebrated in a tweet, saying “We took a big step towards true equality, and made Taiwan a better country.” A crowd of over ten thousand rallied in support for legalization outside the parliament as voting on the bills began.
The bill gives same-sex couples inheritance rights and medical power of attorney. There is still progress to be made, as the bill did not include adoption rights or cross-national marriage rights for same-sex couples. Two other conservative bills were introduced that pushed for marriages to be redefined as same-sex unions and would give less protection to same-sex couples, however both were voted out.
The vote was a product of previous moves by LGBT activists, led by Chi Chai Wei, who officially filed the request to court for ruling of an article that strictly defines marriage between only a man and a woman. In 2017, the constitutional court ruled that denying marriage between same-sex couples was unconstitutional and violated the people’s freedom of marriage. The court requested the Legislative Yuan to create a new law or amend existing laws to parallel the ruling within two years, which has now been fulfilled in 2019.
However, LGBT activism faced a setback in November of 2018, when Taiwanese voters rejected legalizing same sex marriage, with the majority also supporting the statement ”marriage is between a man and a women.” The referendum was brought by the Alliance for Next Generation’s Happiness, the opposition group, collecting more than 600,000 signatures for validation. Although Taiwan serves as a progressive example for traditionally conservative Asia, also holding the biggest gay pride parade in Asia, some have voiced opposition on social media, saying the legislation goes against democracy,
The Chinese government media outlet, the People Daily’s, attempted to claim credit for the legislation before being called out by Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a tweet.
Couple Kristin Huang and Amber Wang officially celebrated their marriage: “I’m so proud that Taiwan is on the right side of the history and the first in Asia to have done so … Taiwan has set an example in making progress in safeguarding human rights,” Huang said.
On May 24th, the first day of legalization, 526 couples registered for marriage.