Taiwan first place in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage

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Same-sex marriage supporters hug each other on the streets of Taipei after hearing the court order.

In a victorious ruling for supporters of same-sex marriage, Taiwan’s constitutional court ruled on Wednesday that the legal definition of marriage is not limited to that between a man and a woman. The ruling also gives Taiwan’s parliament two years to pass new legislation legalizing same-sex marriage. Announcements of the ruling were met with raucous applause on the streets of central Taipei, where rainbow flag-wielding supporters were awaiting the verdict.

The bill to enforce the court’s ruling is already in progress, requiring that authorities either enact or amend relevant laws within two years. If such a law is not enacted within two years, same-sex couples could have their marriages recognized regardless. The case was brought to the court through two petitions, one by activist Chi Chia-wei, who challenged the definition of marriage and the other by the City of Taipei after it was sued for not providing marriage licenses for same-sex couples.

The ruling is a milestone on the road to equality for LGBT people not only in Taiwan, but across Asia. With some places in Asia moving in the opposite direction regarding LGBT rights, the news comes as a beacon of hope for gays and lesbians across the continent. After this week’s court ruling, Taiwan will become the only place in Asia where same-sex marriage is allowed.

Advocates for LGBT rights have provoked a national discussion over same-sex marriage in Taiwan during the last few years, particularly with the rise in popularity of Taipei’s annual Gay Pride march. Support for same-sex marriage has also been heightened by the inauguration of Taiwan’s current leader Tsai Ing-wen, who has publicly proclaimed her support for marriage equality. Wednesday’s ruling brings a happy ending to a long campaign by Taiwanese gay rights advocates.

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