Taiwan’s legislature voted Friday to legalize same-sex marriage, that makes Taiwan the first place in Asia with a comprehensive law both allowing and laying out the terms of same-sex marriage and a boost for LGBT rights activists who championed the cause for two decades.
Lawmakers, pressured by LGBT groups as well as church organizations opposed to the move, approved most of a government-sponsored bill that recognizes same-sex marriages. It gives couples many of the tax, insurance and child custody benefits available to male-female married couples. AP reports.
Taiwan’s Constitutional Court in May 2017 said the constitution allows same-sex marriages and gave Parliament two years to adjust laws accordingly.
The court order mobilized LGBT advocacy groups pushing for fair treatment, as well as opponents among church groups and advocates of traditional Chinese family values.
“It’s a breakthrough, I have to say so. I could not imagine that could happen in just a few years,” said Shiau Hong-chi, professor of gender studies and communications management at Shih-Hsin University in Taiwan.
Thailand is also exploring the legalization of same-sex civil partnerships.
According to AP, Taiwan’s acceptance of gay and lesbian relationships began in the 1990s when leaders in today’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party championed the cause to help Taiwan stand out in Asia as an open society.
Opponents have raised fears of incest, insurance benefit scams and children confused by having two mothers or two fathers. Both sides of the issue have held colourful street demonstrations and lobbied lawmakers.
In November 2018, a majority of Taiwan voters rejected same-sex marriage in an advisory referendum.
Bills on the table Friday include one authored by the government. Another version plays to both sides of the debate by allowing marriages but with conditions such as calling them “unions” and imposing restrictions on adopting children.
Opinion surveys in 2012 and 2015 found that slight majorities of Taiwanese backed legalizing same-sex marriage.
After Taiwan, Vietnam Among Asia’s Most Progressive on LGBT Rights.
The past decade has seen so many policy changes in favor of LGBT rights in Vietnam – most notably the repeal of a heteronormative definition of marriage – that NBC News said the country is “now more progressive than America.” In 2015, the Southeast Asian nation officially abolished regulations that prevent “marriage between people of the same sex.”
At the time, Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia branch, told Bangkok Post: “No other country in Southeast Asia has taken as big a step toward accepting same-sex marriage as Vietnam.”