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Taiwan becomes first Asian nation to legalize same-sex marriage
18 May 2019, 04:27 | Glen Norman
In pictures: Taiwan becomes first in Asia to legalise same-sex marriages
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.
Hundreds of gay rights supporters on Friday gathered despite heavy rain near the parliament building in the capital, Taipei, as legislators were set to vote on a series of bills that could offer same-sex couples similar legal protections for marriage as heterosexuals.
The law, however, allows same-sex marriages only between Taiwanese, or with foreigners whose countries recognise same-sex marriage. Couples will be entitled to key marriage rights on matters including taxation, insurance, and child custody.
"For me the outcome today is not 100 percent ideal, but it's still pretty good for the gay community as it provides legal definition", added Elias Tseng, a gay pastor who was among the crowds outside parliament.
Taipei's colorful gay pride parade, one of Asia's largest, puts on display every year the vibrancy of the island's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.
In 2017, Taiwan's highest court ruled the Civil Code was unconstitutional because it did not recognize same-sex marriages.
In a referendum last November, 72 percent of Taiwan voted against same-sex marriage, showing the opposition towards LGBT+ rights that still persists in the region.
Conservative groups that oppose same-sex marriage said the legislation disrespected the people's will. Seven million people voted against same-sex marriage in the referendum and their votes meant nothing.
Australia passed laws allowing same-sex marriage in 2017, but such unions are not recognised by Hong Kong and neighbouring China, which regards Taiwan as a wayward province to be brought back into the fold by force if necessary.
"On May 17th, 2019 in #Taiwan, #LoveWon", President Tsai Ing-wen wrote on Twitter to celebrate the vote.
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.
Opponents warn that "forcefully" passing a gay marriage law will intensify tensions.
"In Taiwan a marriage will take effect when it's registered, so allowing marriage registration is no doubt recognising the marriage itself", Victoria Hsu, a gay rights lawyer, told AFP.
Taiwan has always been something of a beacon for LGBT rights in East Asia.
Vietnam decriminalized gay marriage celebrations in 2015, but it stopped short of full legal recognition for same-sex unions.
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