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‘We Can Finally Get Married!': Taiwan to Become First Asian Country to Recognise Gay Marriage

Pro-LGBT marriage groups celebrated the court's ruling on May 24, 2017. Photo from Facebook support LGBT marriage coalition.

This post was written by Elson Tong and originally published on Hong Kong Free Press on May 24, 2017. The edited version below is republished on Global Voices under a partnership agreement.

Taiwan’s top court ruled on May 24, 2017 that current regulations prohibiting marriage between partners of the same sex are unconstitutional.

The constitutional court’s ruling means that the island is set to become the first Asian country to recognise same-sex marriage.

Announcing the result of a two-month-long constitutional review on Wednesday afternoon, the panel of 14 judges ordered the legislature to either amend the Civil Code or introduce new provisions to recognise same-sex marriage within two years.

The court said that the current regulations are in violation of constitutional rights to the freedom of marriage and equality among citizens.

Two of the 14 judges dissented, while one refrained from filing an opinion.

Hundreds of same-sex marriage supporters celebrated in Taipei outside the legislature, in a demonstration held by gay rights group Marriage Equality Coalition.

“We can finally get married!” shouted demonstrators outside the Legislative Yuan.

Opponents, however, remain camped outside the judiciary building following their protest on Tuesday. Anti-gay rights activist Abdulluh Musad has staged an ongoing hunger strike for four days at Taipei’s Liberty Square.

‘I witnessed a history in the making’

Wednesday’s review was brought to court by two parties, one of which is Chi Chia-wei, a 59-year-old gay rights activist who first attempted to register a marriage with his male partner in 1986.

With Taiwan under martial law at the time, he was imprisoned for five months. The legislature responded to his petition calling homosexuality “a perversion of a minority.”

Chi was joined in his current petition by the Department of Civil Affairs of the Taipei government, which earlier said it would respect the court’s ruling no matter what.

Chi Chia-wei. Photo from Facebook user Tsai Yi.

Facebook user Tsai Yi spotted the old man outside the Legislative Yuan and recorded the historical moment (English version translated by Tony Lin Zhiyang):

畫面中的這個人叫祁家威,1986年28歲的他在台北一家麥當勞前召開國際記者會公開出櫃,成為台灣第一位公開出櫃的同性戀,此後的三十年間,祁家威的人生幾乎全部投注在同志運動當中,爭取同志平權,為了結婚而戰。

今天,台灣司法院公佈了祁家威提出的釋憲申請,判定民法不保障同性伴侶結婚違憲。

爭取台灣婚姻平權這條路祁家威從一個人走到百萬人走了三十年,而他也從少年走到了白頭。

今天在釋憲現場看到他,匆匆擦肩而過,卻有滄海桑田之感。有生之年可以見證,人生足已。

When he came out as the first openly gay man in Taiwan 30 years ago, he was still a young man.

The man in the picture is Chi Chia-wei. In 1986, the 28-year-old Chi hosted a press conference in front of a McDonald's in Taipei, becoming the first openly gay man in Taiwan. In the following 30 years, Chi spends most of his adult life in LGBT rights and fights for marriage equality.

Today, Taiwan's Judicial Yuan made a judicial interpretation regarding Chi's petition: it is unconstitutional for Taiwan's Civil Code to prohibit same sex marriage.

He started this fight 30 years ago as a young man and he was all by himself, but today he has millions of people behind him.

I walked past him earlier today at a gathering outside of Legislative Yuan. It was just a matter of seconds, but I witnessed a history in the making.

Existing regulations stipulating marriage as a union between a man and a woman have also been challenged in a bill proposed by legislator Yu Mei-nu of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party. The Legislative Yuan passed the first of three readings of the bill in December 2016, but a final review is not expected until later this year.

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