Tue, Nov 27, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Owners of LGBT-focused businesses shrug off vote

By Ann Wang and Yimou Lee  /  Reuters, TAIPEI

On a sunny day in a park in Taipei, photographer Austin Haung advises a same-sex couple on how to pose for a pre-wedding photoshoot. For him, Taiwan’s reputation as a beacon of liberalism in the region means a thriving business.

“Our clients are mostly same-sex couples from overseas, including Hong Kong, Singapore, China and Malaysia,” said 32-year-old Haung, who hopes to turn his part-time job into a full-time business targeting gay newlyweds from across the region. “They said Taiwan is a reassuring place to do the shoot... If they do this in their own country, they worry about being identified or people raising eyebrows.”

Taipei has a celebrated annual gay pride parade that showcases the vibrancy of its LGBT community. The one-week celebration every October, the largest in the region, contributes more than US$3.3 million to the economy.

LGBT-related businesses are thriving in a nation where liberal attitudes have earned it a reputation as Asia’s “gay capital.”

In Asia’s first such ruling, the Council of Grand Justices declared in May last year that same-sex couples had the right to legally marry and set a two-year deadline for legalization.

However, in Saturday’s referendum Taiwanese voted against gay marriage.

The issue of same-sex marriage has divided the nation, at family dining room tables, online and on the streets.

A hub for LGBT rights advocates is the Gin Gin bookshop, which was raided by police in 2003 and 500 magazines seized.

“We have fought a long fight and now have loyal customers coming to our shop at least once a year from all over the world,” said Yang Pingjing (楊平靖), one of the store’s owners.

Rights advocates had said the conservative referendum was “discriminatory,” as it went against last year’s ruling that the laws contravened the right to freedom of marriage and equality.

“I’m not too worried about my business,” owner of the 24-hour Hans Men’s Sauna, surnamed Yu (余), said before the referendum. “Once a gay man, you will always be a gay man, no matter the result of the referendum.”

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