Taiwan legalizes same-sex marriage - a historic first for Asia

Same-sex marriage supporters gather outside the Legislative Yuan in Taipei Taiwan. The signs read ''Vote Can't Be Defeated.''

Taiwan's legislature passed a law on Friday allowing same-sex marriage, a first for Asia.

The country's parliament voted in favor of a government bill offering same-sex couples similar rights to opposite-sex couples.

Same-sex marriage supporters take part in a rally during parliament discussion on three different draft bills of a same-sex marriage law, outside the Legislative Yuan in Taipei, Taiwan May 14, 2019. Couples will be entitled to key marriage rights on matters including taxation, insurance, and child custody.

"Today, we can show the world that #LoveWins", she added.

The landmark decision cements Taiwan's reputation as a beacon of liberalism in a region where the LGBT community faces increasing persecution, and will give a long-awaited boost to Asia's burgeoning gay rights movement.

Two years ago Taiwan's top court ruled that not allowing same-sex couples to marry violates the constitution with judges giving the government until May 24, 2019 to make the changes or see marriage equality enacted automatically.

The bill follows a 2017 ruling that Taiwan's ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.

Late a year ago, Taiwan voters opposed same-sex marriage in a series of referendums, defining marriage as being between a man and a woman, while seeking a special law for such unions.

President Tsai Ing-wen has said the government's bill respects both the court judgement and the referendum.

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Worldwide, Taiwan joins 27 countries in legalizing same-sex marriage.

"We will have a clear answer this week about how this country will treat gay couples in the future", said Jennifer Lu, a spokeswoman for Marriage Equality Coalition Taiwan.

"We will still need to improve social communication in order to eliminate discrimination against gay people", Lim said.

South Africa is the only country in Africa to allow same-sex marriage thus far, and more than 70 countries continue to criminalize homosexual activity.

Taiwan goes to the polls in January and the gay marriage issue could hamper Tsai's chances of re-election.

Lai Shyh-bao of the opposition Kuomintang party, who acted as one of the proponents of the "civil union" Bills, however, argued that "The cabinet's bill ignores the referendum results and that is unacceptable".

"What a tremendous victory for LGBT rights!" said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. Supporters shouted "First in Asia!" after the article was passed.

The Taiwan Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership Rights told media the vote meant Taiwan is "successfully striding toward a new page of history!" .

Vietnam decriminalised gay marriage celebrations in 2015, but stopped short of granting full legal recognition for same-sex unions.

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