Taiwan Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage
TAIWAN -- Lawmakers in Taiwan have approved a bill legalizing same-sex marriage, a landmark decision that makes the self-ruled island the first place in Asia to pass gay marriage legislation.
The vote came almost two years after the island's Constitutional Court ruled that the existing law -- which said marriage was between a man and a woman -- was unconstitutional. The panel of judges gave the island's parliament two years to amend or enact new laws.
On Friday -- only a week off the two-year deadline -- lawmakers in Taiwan's Legislative Yuan passed a bill making same-sex marriage a reality. It will go into effect on May 24.
Although the island has a large gay community and its annual gay pride parade is the biggest in Asia, the issue of marriage equality has bitterly divided Taiwanese society. In a controversial referendum in November last year, 67% voted to reject same-sex marriage.
In recent months several groups have campaigned against same-sex marriage reform, pushing for a law that would see gay marriages redefined as something closer to same-sex unions.
Tens of thousands of people stood in pouring rain outside parliament Friday to support same-sex marriage.
The successful Cabinet bill was the only one of three to use the word "marriage." It was backed by LGBTQ groups, despite the fact it could see same-sex couples denied rights enjoyed by heterosexual couples, such as adoption and cross-national marriage.
Taiwan's vote sets it apart from other parts of Asia where LGBTQ rights have regressed.
In mainland China, where homosexuality is legal but prejudices and discrimination against LGBT people persist under Communist Party rule, an author of same-sex erotic fiction was sent to jail for 10 years in November.
In April, the ruler of the tiny, oil-rich kingdom of Brunei announced he would introduce death by stoning for those convicted of gay sex. Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah has since said the death penalty will not be imposed, although he did not repeal the law.
In Indonesia, declining secularism has led to deepening discrimination against the country's gay, lesbian and transgender communities. Last year, two men accused of being gay received 87 lashes for gay sex in the country's conservative Aceh province.
More than two dozen countries around the world allow gay marriage, according to Pew Research.
(PHOTO: Sam Yeh/Getty Images)