Taiwan Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage in First for Asia

Same-sex marriage supporters shout during a parliament vote on three draft bills of a same-sex marriage law outside the Legislative Yuan in Taipei on Friday

Taiwan becomes the first country in Asia to approve same-sex marriage

Taiwan's parliament voted to legalise same-sex marriage on Friday, becoming the first in Asia to do so.

Australia passed laws allowing same-sex marriage in 2017, but such unions are not recognised by Hong Kong and neighboring China, which regards Taiwan as a wayward province to be returned to the fold by force, if necessary.

Lawmakers of the majority Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) backed the bill, which passed 66 to 27, although the measure could complicate President Tsai Ing-wen's bid to win a second term in presidential elections next year.

"How can we ignore the result of the referendums, which demonstrated the will of the people?"

What does the bill entail?

The vote allows same-sex couples full legal marriage rights, including in areas such as taxes, insurance and child custody.

Several same-sex activists had said ahead of the vote that this was the only version they would accept.

"I'm pleased that Taiwan has made progress and is sending a message to the world", she said.

The vote comes two years after the island's constitutional court ruled in favour of same-sex marriage.

The government's bill is, therefore, a compromise between the court ruling and the referendums.

Same-sex marriage supporters gather outside the Legislative Yuan in Taipei, Taiwan.

Because of this the government said it would not alter its existing definition of marriage in civil law, and instead would make a special law for same-sex marriage.

What reaction has there been?

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Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said, "Incredible victory for #LGBT rights, non-discrimination, respect, & families!" Taiwan is the first place in Asia to do so.

In November previous year, voters passed a referendum in support of male-female marriages only.

Others expressed opposition on social media. Paul Ng, from Singapore, told the BBC he and his friends saw it as "an occasion to celebrate, even though we're not Taiwanese. We need more dialogue in society". Advocates called for other Asian nations to follow its lead.

The DPP's bill will recognise unions as marriages, the same as heterosexual couples, and define partners as spouses.

It also amended Article 2 of the Cabinet's version, which reads: "Same-sex marriage refers to two persons of the same sex forming a permanent bond that is intimate and exclusive for the objective of managing a life together", removing the definition of "same-sex marriage" and rewording it to say that two people of the same sex may form a permanent bond that is intimate and exclusive for the goal of managing a life together. However, conservative groups had opposed any changes to the law, staging massive protests against such a move. The department of civil affairs said that, as of Thursday, 151 couples had made appointments to register on that day.

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