Tai­wan le­gal­izes same-sex mar­riage

LGBT com­mu­nity cheers ap­proval of ‘exclusive per­ma­nent unions’

The Washington Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY NICK ASPINWALL for­[email protected]­post.com

Thou­sands gath­ered to cel­e­brate out­side par­lia­ment Fri­day in Taipei as Tai­wan’s leg­is­la­ture be­came the first in Asia to le­gal­ize same-sex mar­riage. Tai­wan’s high court had ruled in 2017 that bar­ring such nup­tials was il­le­gal. Hun­dreds of cou­ples have al­ready reg­is­tered to marry when the law takes ef­fect May 24.

taipei, tai­wan — Thou­sands of mar­riage-equal­ity ad­vo­cates cel­e­brated Fri­day in the pour­ing rain out­side Tai­wan’s leg­is­la­ture as it voted to be­come the first in Asia to fully le­gal­ize same-sex unions.

The law — which al­lows for same-sex cou­ples to ap­ply for “mar­riage reg­is­tra­tion” as part of “exclusive per­ma­nent unions” — came a week be­fore Tai­wan’s codes bar­ring same-sex mar­riage would have been au­to­mat­i­cally dropped by court or­der.

Law­mak­ers had faced pres­sure from LGBT groups de­mand­ing sweep­ing changes and from re­li­gious groups and oth­ers op­pos­ing the changes. Fri­day’s 66-to-27 vote rec­og­nizes same-sex mar­riages and gives cou­ples many of the tax, in­sur­ance and child­cus­tody ben­e­fits avail­able to male-fe­male mar­ried cou­ples.

Tai­wan’s high court ruled on May 24, 2017, that bar­ring same­sex cou­ples from mar­ry­ing vi­o­lates the Tai­wanese constituti­on and gave the leg­is­la­ture two years to pass a cor­re­spond­ing law or see same-sex mar­riage be­come le­gal­ized au­to­mat­i­cally.

The process fre­quently stalled amid con­ser­va­tive op­po­si­tion. And in Novem­ber 2018, Tai­wan voted in a pub­lic ref­er­en­dum to deny same-sex cou­ples full mar­riage rights.

Tai­wan’s rul­ing Demo­cratic Pro­gres­sive Party (DPP) re­sponded by sub­mit­ting leg­is­la­tion de­signed to com­ply with the court rul­ing and the ref­er­en­dum result. Two com­pet­ing bills that would be less fa­vor­able to the gay com­mu­nity were sub­mit­ted, but they failed to gain trac­tion.

The law could give the DPP and Pres­i­dent Tsai Ing-wen a boost ahead of a pres­i­den­tial elec­tion in Jan­uary. Gay rights ad­vo­cates have long crit­i­cized the rul­ing party for fail­ing to pass leg­is­la­tion sooner, but these con­cerns were largely ab­sent amid the mood of op­ti­mism at Fri­day’s rally.

Chi Chia-wei, a gay rights ac­tivist for more than 30 years, said he was “very, very happy” to see Tai­wan le­gal­ize same-sex mar­riage, call­ing the process “a strong demon­stra­tion of our demo­cratic spirit.”

Fri­day’s leg­is­la­tion brought a wave of eu­pho­ria over a large crowd out­side Tai­wan’s leg­is­la­ture. Many at­ten­dees ar­rived in buses from out­ly­ing cities and stood un­der um­brel­las in a tor­ren­tial down­pour as leg­is­la­tors voted on the ar­ti­cles that would make up Asia’s first same-sex­mar­riage leg­is­la­tion.

The law en­sures that Tai­wan would stand as an ex­am­ple for Asia’s LGBT com­mu­nity. Thai­land has pro­posed a law to rec­og­nize civil part­ner­ships, but same­sex unions re­main il­le­gal else­where in Asia.

Jay Lin, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Por­tico Me­dia and a gay fa­ther of two chil­dren, called the law a “bea­con of hope” for Asia’s gay com­mu­nity. “I’m very glad that I’m liv­ing in Tai­wan and I’m a ben­e­fi­ciary of these new laws,” he said.

In neigh­bor­ing China — which as­serts sovereignt­y over Tai­wan — pop­u­lar LGBT mi­croblogs were cen­sored on­line in the wake of Tai­wan’s 2017 high-court rul­ing. The so­cial me­dia plat­form Weibo was crit­i­cized last month for re­strict­ing LGBT hash­tags.

Tai­wan has shown that “tra­di­tional cul­ture is not against LGBT cul­ture,” said Jennifer Lu, co­or­di­na­tor of the rights group Mar­riage Equal­ity Coali­tion Tai­wan. “That’s the mes­sage we want to send to the world.”

Be­fore Fri­day’s vote, leg­is­la­tors in Tai­wan’s op­po­si­tion Kuom­intang (KMT) party had ral­lied to pro­mote a bill that would not de­fine same-sex unions as “mar­riages.” On Thurs­day evening, the DPP amended its draft leg­is­la­tion to re­move ref­er­ences to “same-sex mar­riages” while en­sur­ing that same-sex cou­ples would nonethe­less be al­lowed to regis­ter mar­riages.

Tsai, the pres­i­dent, voiced her sup­port of the leg­is­la­tion in a Twit­ter post, say­ing that Fri­day marked “a chance to make his­tory and show the world that pro­gres­sive values can take root in an Asian so­ci­ety.”

The rul­ing DPP holds 68 of the 113 seats in Tai­wan’s leg­is­la­ture. Tsai’s premier and the party’s cau­cus whip had worked re­lent­lessly over the past week to se­cure enough sup­port for the leg­is­la­tion to pass.

Hun­dreds of cou­ples have al­ready reg­is­tered to marry on May 24, the dead­line set by the high court, but they have not known ex­actly what rights they would be af­forded as newly mar­ried cou­ples.

Tai­wan’s new law grants same­sex cou­ples the right to marry out­side its civil code, which gov­erns mar­riage rights for het­ero­sex­ual cou­ples. This was done to com­ply with the 2017 court rul­ing as well as the Novem­ber ref­er­en­dum.

Gay rights ad­vo­cates have called for full adop­tion rights for same-sex cou­ples, who are barred from adopt­ing non-blood rel­a­tives un­der the new law.

Lu said the law rep­re­sents a ma­jor step for­ward for Tai­wan’s gay com­mu­nity, es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing the strong con­ser­va­tive back­lash to the 2017 high-court de­ci­sion. “I think the result is an ac­com­plish­ment at this stage,” she said. “But we will keep on fighting for full mar­riage rights.”

CARL COURT/GETTY IM­AGES

CARL COURT/GETTY IM­AGES

A woman re­acts in Taipei af­ter Tai­wan’s par­lia­ment voted Fri­day to al­low same-sex mar­riage. The vote gives same-sex cou­ples many of the tax, in­sur­ance and child-cus­tody ben­e­fits male-fe­male cou­ples get.

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