Homosexuality is not widely accepted in Asian countries, where horrific punishments – such as the recent caning of a gay couple in Indonesia — can often snag headlines; but a glimmer of hope for same sex couples comes from Taiwan this week, where gay marriage has just been legalized.
On Wednesday, Taiwanese judges made a historic ruling to amend existing laws, or pass new ones, to legalize same sex marriages in the country. The court decision is a win for the LGBTQ+ community, and makes Taiwan the first Asian country to legalize same sex unions.
“In our country, homosexuals were once denied by social tradition and custom in the past. As a result, they have long been locked in the closet and suffered various forms of de facto or de jure exclusion or discrimination,” writes the Taiwanese government in an issued press release. “Disallowing two persons of the same sex to marry, for the sake of safeguarding basic ethical orders, is a different treatment, also obviously having no rational basis. Such different treatment is incompatible with the spirit and meaning of the right to equality.”
Amidst the celebrations amongst the local LGBTQ+ community is the worry of whether the ruling will translate to full marriage rights. The hope is that the Taiwanese parliament will simply amend the existing marriage law to include same sex couples, thereby granting them the same equal rights as their heterosexual counterparts. Should parliament opt to pass a new law instead, there is fear that it may not include all the same rights for same sex couples.
The legalization of same sex unions in Taiwan has been a hotly debated issue since President Tsai Ing-wen, who is openly supportive of the ruling, took office last year. In response, Taiwanese conservative groups — as expected — have taken to protesting against the ruling, arguing that a decision that affects society should not be determined by a handful of judges, but rather the Taiwanese people.
Following Wednesday’s court ruling, the Taiwanese parliament has two years to amend or pass a new marriage law including same sex couples. If no changes are made within two years, same sex couples can opt to register for marriage to be legally recognized as a couple in Taiwan. Either way, it seems that love has won in Taiwan this week, a trend we hope will influence other Asian countries.