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Taiwan’s Legalization of Same-Sex Marriage Serves as a Milestone for Asia

Despite the relentless sheets of rain pouring down, protesters in Taiwan still gathered outside the Legislate Yuan in Taipei to commemorate parliament’s vote on the legalization of same-sex marriage. It marked a historic moment in history as the first Asian country to ratify it. Same-sex couples will be able to get married starting on May 24th.

In the future, however, Taiwanese LGBTQ+ members still face an uncertain path in terms of their country’s divided stance on the decriminalization of same-sex marriage. The ratified bill was not met without contentions from strong opponents, and several anti-LGBTQ+ groups proved to be detrimental along the path to acceptance.

History of LGBTQ+ Rights in Taiwan:

Throughout the past decade, numerous bills have been proposed by lawmakers in Taiwan to legalize same-sex marriage, but to little avail, as conservatives voted down bills in both 2003 and 2006. CNN reports 67% of Taiwan voted to reject the referendum in November of 2018. However, with the new bill going into action, hundreds of couples have already applied for marriage in Taiwan.

The bill’s proposal was not met without opposition; two other legislates accompanied the ultimate ratification with far more conservative tenants, referring to same-sex marriage as a “union.” Only one of the bills, the one that would eventually come to pass in a 66-27 vote, used the word “marriage” to describe its focus. With the “marriage” bill being chosen over its opponents, the significance is greater for LGBTQ+ couples as it represents how they should be treated equally to opposite-sex couples.

Taiwan’s Constitutional Court initially made the decree to allow same-sex marriage in 2017. Parliament was given a two-year period to enact a bill that would provide same-sex couples with their guaranteed rights, leading to the three bills that parliament voted on this past Friday. Many Taiwanese took to social media to celebrate the bill passing, in addition to the several hundred couples who have since registered to get married following the 24th.

With regards to other regions of Asia, countries such as Israel and Armenia — despite not recognizing unions in their domestic territory — validate same-sex marriage performed abroad. The predominance of countries, however, still fail to recognize the validity of same-sex marriages and have yet to enable legislation that does.

What It Means for Asia:

Law often presents a difficult factor for the LGBTQ+ community. Even if legislation is passed to grant the community fundamental rights, it doesn’t necessarily equate to members being treated as equal due to the stigma in society. While the bill is a victory, there is still the contention that LGBTQ+ couples are lacking basic rights in numerous Asian countries. Such discrimination stems not only from laws but also due to the integral social stigma surrounding them.

The masses of people gathered to commemorate the bill in Taiwan are a smaller section of the rapidly rising movement for LGBTQ+ equality all over the Pacific region. The Bangkok embassy protest, attended by various activists, urged for the decriminalization of same-sex lifestyles — an issue common in most Asian territory that has yet to be addressed by policymakers. Governments often fail to realize simply legalizing same-sex marriage does not equate to LGBTQ+ communities being treated as equals in society, and thus the further decriminalization of activities all over Asia proves to be the next goal for the LGBTQ+ community in their steps to destigmatization.

Photo by Cecilie Johnsen on Unsplash

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Colleen is an avid journalist and sophomore attending Langley High School just outside Washington DC. Apart from competing in Model United Nations and playing the viola, Colleen additionally pursues ways to intertwine her journalistic passions with mental health advocacy for more integrated awareness. Outside of school, she serves as a Mentor for Global Classrooms DC and is a member of the International OCD Foundation.

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