Taiwan parliament approves gay marriage bill

The government of Taiwan has survived a last-ditch attempt by conservatives to water down landmark legislation to legalize same-sex marriage. The issue has highlighted bitter divisions on the island.

Lawmakers in Taiwan on Friday voted 66-27 in favor of a law permitting "exclusive permanent unions" for same-sex couples and to allow them to apply for a "marriage registration" with government agencies. 

Taiwan is the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage.

Divisive vote

  • Friday's vote gives same-sex couples full marriage rights under law, including matters such as taxation, insurance and child custody.
  • Full parity on adoption rights, however, is not not inculding in the law.
  • Conservatives tried to remove references to marriage, proposing instead same-sex unions under another name.
  • Same-sex couples will now be able to register their marriage from May 24 onwards.

LGBT delight

Friday is the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia,  The voting was accompanied by the presence of hundreds of gay rights supporters near the parliament, who hugged one another enthusiastically in the rain when the approval was announced.

Gay rights supporters gathered outside the parliament despite persistent rain

The Taiwan Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership Rights said the vote meant Taiwan had successfully opened "a new page in history."

President Tsai Ing-wen hailed the vote in a tweet in which she called the decision a "big step towards true equality."

DW's William Yang in Taipeh said people celebrating outside parliament were "thrilled, hugging each other and waving rainbow flags ... but vowed to continue the fight until same-sex couples enjoy full legal rights." 

Conservative opposition

Conservative groups said the approval did not reflect the will of the people.

"The will of some 7 million people in the referendum has been trampled," one group, the Coalition for the Happiness of
Our Next Generation said in a statement. "The massive public will strike back in 2020."

Taiwanese voters last year rejected same-sex marriage in a series of referendums.

How did we get here? The gay rights movement started gathering momentum in Taiwan in the 1990s. The country's top court ruled in 2017 that preventing same-sex couples from getting married was unconstitutional. It gave the government two years to introduce appropriate legislation or see a marriage equality law enacted automatically. That deadline was due to un out on May 24.

When does the law take effect? President Tsai Ing-wen's ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) holds the majority in parliament, occupying 68 out of 113 seats. All that remains now is for her to pass the bill into law.

Countries that have legalized same-sex marriage

2001, The Netherlands

The Netherlands was the first country in the world to permit same-sex marriages after the Dutch parliament voted for legalization in 2000. The mayor of Amsterdam, Job Cohen, wedded the first four same-sex couples at midnight on April 1, 2001 when the legislation came into effect. The new law also allowed same-sex couples to adopt children.

Countries that have legalized same-sex marriage

2003, Belgium

The Netherlands' neighbor, Belgium, followed the Dutch lead and legalized same-sex marriage two years later. The law gave same-sex partners many of the rights of their heterosexual counterparts. But unlike the Dutch, the Belgians did not initially allow same-sex couples to adopt children. The Belgian parliament passed a bill granting them that right three years later.

Countries that have legalized same-sex marriage

2010, Argentina

Argentina became the first Latin American country to legalize same-sex marriages when its Senate voted 33 to 27 in favor of it in July 2010. Argentina thereby became the tenth country in the world to permit gay and lesbian marriages. The South American country was not the only one to do so in 2010. Earlier in the year, Portugal and Iceland also passed same-sex marriage legislation.

Countries that have legalized same-sex marriage

2012, Denmark

Denmark's parliament overwhelmingly voted in favor of legalization in June 2012. The small Scandinavian country had made headlines before when it was the first country in the world to recognize civil partnerships for gay and lesbian couples in 1989. Same-sex couples had also enjoyed the right to adopt children since 2009.

Countries that have legalized same-sex marriage

2013, New Zealand

New Zealand became the 15th country worldwide and the first Asia-Pacific country to allow gay and lesbian marriages in 2013. The first couples were married on August 19. Lynley Bendall (left) and Ally Wanik (right) were among them when they exchanged vows on board an Air New Zealand flight from Queenstown to Auckland. France legalized same-sex marriage the same year.

Countries that have legalized same-sex marriage

2015, Ireland

Ireland made headlines in May 2015 when it became the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage through a referendum. Thousands of people celebrated in the streets of Dublin as the results came in showing almost two-thirds of voters opting for the measure.

Countries that have legalized same-sex marriage

2015, USA

The White House was alight in the colors of the rainbow flag on June 26, 2015. Earlier, the US Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 that the constitution guaranteed marriage equality, a verdict that paved the way for same-sex couples to be married across the country. The decision came 12 years after the Supreme Court ruled that laws criminalizing gay sex were unconstitutional.

Countries that have legalized same-sex marriage

2017, Germany

Germany became the fifteenth European country to legalize gay and lesbian marriages in June 30, 2017. The bill passed by 393 to 226 in the Bundestag, with four abstentions. German Chancellor Angela Merkel voted against the bill, but paved the way for its passage when she said her party would be allowed to vote freely on the measure only days before the vote took place.

Countries that have legalized same-sex marriage

2017 - 2018, Australia

Following a postal survey which showed the majority of Australians were in favor of same-sex marriage, the country's parliament passed a law to legalize it in December 2017. As couples in Australia have to give authorities one month's notice of their nuptials, many of the first weddings took place just after midnight on January 9, 2018 - including that of Craig Burns and Luke Sullivan, pictured.

A same sex female couple pose with a mock wedding certificate

Countries that have legalized same-sex marriage

2019, Taiwan

In May 2019, the island state became the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage. The government survived an attempt by conservative opposition to water down the bill. Gay couples are able to offically register their marriage from May 24 onwards. President Tsai Ing-wen called it "a big step towards true equality."

Countries that have legalized same-sex marriage

2019, Ecuador

The Andean state's top court ruled 5-4 to allow two gay couples to marry in June. The decision followed a ruling from the Inter-American Court on Human Rights affirming that countries should allow same-sex couples the right to marry.

tj/rt (dpa, AFP)

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