Taiwan’s constitutional court has declared that same-sex couples have the right to legally marry.
VIDEO: Taiwanese gender equality supporters celebrate their victory.
This first such ruling in Asia has sparked celebration by activists who have been campaigning for the right for years.
“Sexual orientation is an immutable characteristic that is resistant to change,” the court said in its ruling.
“Furthermore, the freedom of marriage for two persons of the same sex, once legally recognised, will constitute the collective basis, together with opposite-sex marriage, for a stable society.”
The court, known as the Judicial Yuan, said current marriage laws were “in violation of both the people’s freedom of marriage … and the people’s right to equality”, and it gave two years for legal amendments to allow same-sex marriage.
“If relevant laws are not amended or enacted within the said two years, two persons of the same sex who intend to create the said permanent union shall be allowed to have their marriage registration effectuated,” the court said.
PHOTO: Activists raise colourful posters rallying for support of marriage equality in Taiwan.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights activists had harboured high hopes that their years of campaigning for same-sex marriage would win the court’s backing.
Hundreds of supporters of same-sex marriage gathered in the street next to the island’s Parliament to celebrate the decision, holding colourful umbrellas to ward off a drizzle.
“It’s a moment we’ve been waiting for,” LGBTQ columnist William Yang told the ABC from Taipei.
“We’re hoping this is just the beginning”
Chi Chia-wei, one of the petitioners who brought the case to the constitutional court spent 30 years campaigning for same-sex marriage in the country.
According to Hong Kong Free Press, the 59-year-old first attempted to register a marriage with his male partner in 1986. He was imprisoned for five months.
In the run up to today’s decision, he urged judges to allow gay couples to register to marry the next day.
The ruling clearing the way for same-sex marriage is the first in Asia, where socially conservative attitudes largely hold sway.
AUDIO: George Yin discusses politics, LGBT rights and international reputations surrounding same-sex marriage in Taiwan.
Just this week, two gay men in Indonesia’s Aceh province were lashed 83 times each after vigilantes found them privately having sex and reported them to authorities.
Following the ruling, Mr Yang told the ABC that he hopes it paves the way to more progressive values throughout the region.
“It’s definitely unprecedented in [a region where] we have witnessed so much persecution of LGBTQ communities in the past few weeks, like the persecution we saw in Indonesia,” he said.
“We’re definitely hoping that this is just the beginning of more progressive values being recognised and adopted in Asia.”
Taiwan, which China regards as a renegade province, has a celebrated annual gay pride parade that showcases the vibrancy of its lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
PHOTO: Supporters embrace amidst a tide of rainbow headbands and clappers after the new laws were declared in Taiwan.
However there have been some objections by some religious groups in the country.
“Family conflicts will increase and the whole definition of marriage will be changed,” said Andrew Chang, a spokesman for an anti-gay marriage group Alliance of Religious Groups for the Love of Families Taiwan.
Amnesty International welcomed the ruling. Lisa Tassi, East Asia Campaigns Director said:
“This is a huge step forward for
LGBTI rights in Taiwan and
will resonate across Asia.”
“Lawmakers must act swiftly to ensure Taiwan becomes the first in Asia to make genuine marriage equality a reality.
“As today’s ruling makes clear, whoever you love, everyone is entitled to the same human rights and equal protection under the law.”
Edited by: Kayla Wratten