Taiwan’s LGBT+ community celebrates historic same-sex marriage ruling: ‘First in Asia!’

‘This isn’t a perfect bill, but today gives me faith that we will get there’

Taiwan becomes first state in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage

On a rainy Friday in Taipei, Taiwan made history becoming the first place in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage.

Over 40,000 supporters had gathered in the capital outside the legislature since the early hours, according to the rally’s organiser, many of them taking overnight buses from other parts of Taiwan to join the demonstration.

As the bill was passed, the crowds celebrated, chanting: “First in Asia!”

Jennifer Lu, from the Marriage Equality Coalition Taiwan rights group, broke down into tears on the stage, thanking supporters for staying through the rain with them.

“Thank you all for taking it to the street with us, as always,” Lu said.

“Today is the day that Taiwan legalises same-sex marriage, and from now on, we will never forget 17 May.”

Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-wen, who campaigned heavily on the platform of marriage equality in 2015, wrote on Twitter: “We took a big step towards true equality, and made Taiwan a better country.”

The landmark ruling came nearly two years after Taiwan’s constitutional court said banning LGBT+ couples from marrying was unconstitutional.

Among the crowds were Lily and Amy, who both took the day off from work in order to witness this change in history.

For them, Taiwan is a comfortable society that is generally inclusive, but last November’s referendum result forced them to re-evaluate the way they present themselves as a lesbian couple there.

After the court ruling, opponents of same-sex marriage initiated three referendums, with over 7.6 million Taiwanese people voting in favour of defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

“No one has ever really given us a hard time for being a lesbian couple in public, and it made us think that Taiwanese society really doesn’t judge us for loving who we love,” Amy told the Independent.

People celebrate after the announcement

“But the referendum result made us realise that we might have actually been judged by most of the people in Taiwan all along.”

With same-sex marriage now legalised, it has helped restore their faith in Taiwan.

“We’ve always had plans to get married, but we never dared to start planning after the referendum defeat. Now we can rest assured that the government is on our side,” said Lily, who asked that only her first name be used.

For Aurelien Jegou, a French filmmaker living in Taiwan, the bill strengthens his belief that Taiwan remains one of the few places where he will never feel threatened as a gay man.

“Even though same-sex marriage has been legalised in France for many years, I always feel a bit insecure when I’m walking down the street while holding my boyfriend’s hand,” Jegou said.

“But I never felt this way in Taiwan, even when same-sex marriage hadn’t been legalised.

“I’m very glad I could now marry my boyfriend if I want to.

“It’s a confirmation of what I’ve already felt about Taiwan, the sense of freedom.”

The same-sex marriage bill will come into effect on 24 May

But for Chi Chia-wei, a well-known Taiwanese gay rights activist who has been campaigning for marriage equality since 1986, the current bill still fails to address the issue of transnational marriage and second-parent adoption.

“We are forced to accept a compromised version of the same-sex marriage bill,” Chi explains.

“I believe in three to five years, Taiwan will be ready to grant full marriage rights to its LGBT+ citizens.”

Victoria Hsu, whose team represented Chi in a lawsuit that led to the constitutional court ruling, hopes the new bill will mean activists can now “focus on improving other aspects of LGBT+ rights”.

Yet despite its limitations, Jay Lin, also at the event, is celebrating the chance to start planning a real future with his partner and two sons.

“This isn’t a perfect bill, but today gives me faith that we will get there and that we will continue to take gigantic steps towards building a better society.”

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