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In a first for Asia, Taiwan parliament endorses same-sex marriage

18 May 2019

Taiwan will decide whether to pass Asia's first gay marriage law on Friday as conservative lawmakers launch a last-ditch attempt to scupper the bill despite a court ruling ordering same-sex marital equality.

Supporters of same-sex marriage gather outside the parliament building in Taipei.

The government's bill created a new law specifically outlining same-sex marriage outside the Civil Code in order to comply with the plebiscite.

Taiwan's Constitutional Court in May 2017 said the constitution allows same-sex marriages and gave parliament two years to adjust laws accordingly.

As a result, Taiwan said it would not alter its existing definition of marriage in civil law, and instead would enact a special law for same-sex marriage.

"On May 17th, 2019 in #Taiwan, #LoveWon", President Tsai Ing-wen wrote on Twitter to celebrate the vote.

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"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.

Thousands of people, including same-sex couples, demonstrated Friday morning in the rainy streets outside parliament before the vote.

In November 2018, a majority of Taiwan voters rejected same-sex marriage in an advisory referendum.

Same-sex marriage in the United Kingdom became legal in 2014, Ireland voted to legalise same-sex marriage in 2015, in the U.S. it was also passed in 2015 and most recently Australia approved it in 2017.

In November a year ago, voters passed a referendum in support of male-female marriages only. Same-sex couples can not co-adopt.

"It's a breakthrough, I have to say so", said Shiau Hong-chi, professor of gender studies and communications management at Shih-Hsin University in Taiwan.

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The vote - which took place on the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia - is a major victory for the island's LGBT community and it places the island at the vanguard of Asia's burgeoning gay rights movement.

The law was also celebrated by many LGBT people in the region.

Taiwan has been a leader for gay rights in Asia, hosting an annual gay pride parade in Taipei attended by LGBT groups from all over the continent.

"For Singaporeans, this is especially important because our government likes to go on and on about preserving "Asian" values... so this sends a very important message to other developed nations in Asia".

Vietnam decriminalised gay marriage celebrations in 2015, but it stopped short of full legal recognition for same-sex unions. It was one of three that lawmakers considered and the only one to use the word "marriage". However, conservative groups had opposed any changes to the law, staging massive protests against such a move. "Just can't wait any longer", Chien Chih-chieh, the alliance's secretary general, said.

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.

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In a first for Asia, Taiwan parliament endorses same-sex marriage