Taiwan made history yesterday with Asia’s first legal gay weddings as same-sex couples tied the knot in jubilant and emotional scenes, the culmination of a three-decade fight for equality.
The weddings, which came a week after lawmakers legalized gay marriage, despite staunch conservative opposition, places Taiwan at the vanguard of the burgeoning gay rights movement in Asia.
As of 5pm yesterday, 500 couples of the same sex had completed marriage registration, including 171 male couples and 329 female couples, according to statistics compiled by the Ministry of the Interior.
Photo: Fang Pin-chao, Taipei Times
Under the Enforcement Act of Judicial Yuan Interpretation No. 748 (司法院釋字第748號解釋施行法), which was passed on Friday last week and was signed into law by President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on Wednesday, two people of the same sex aged 18 or older are allowed to register for marriage, with at least two witnesses signing the registration document.
They would then enjoy the same rights as heterosexual couples in the areas of inheritance and medical power of attorney. A spouse would be allowed to adopt the biological children of the other, but not the non-biological ones he or she had previously adopted.
Among those tying the knot yesterday was Shane Lin, a 31-year-old baker who with his partner were the first couple to register in a Taipei office.
Photo: Ashley Pon, Bloomberg
“I feel very lucky that I can say this out loud to everyone: I am gay and I am getting married,” Lin said.
“I am extremely proud of my country Taiwan,” a tearful Lin added.
Another male couple who have been together for 12 years were briefly overwhelmed with emotion when they were asked to describe how they felt on their wedding day.
“Being gay in Taiwan has not been easy. I feel lucky to have had the support of my friends, family and better half,” said one of the partners, nicknamed Hsiao Hsuan, adding that he still remembered the first time he took part in Taiwan’s gay pride parade.
“I waved a rainbow flag so hard throughout the parade, but I was too afraid to take it out on my way home, but today I am able to say in front of all these people that I am gay and I am getting married. I am proud of my country,” he said.
Among those who registered yesterday were a Taiwanese woman who married her partner from South Africa, the ministry said, adding that following their marriage registration, the latter went to the National Immigration Agency and changed her work-based residency to marriage-based residency.
Veteran gay rights activist Chi Chia-wei (祁家威) — who served as a witness for several of the 20 couples who participated in a collective marriage registration event organized by the Marriage Equality Coalition Taiwan — said the registrations were the culmination of a three-decade fight trying to persuade successive governments to change the law.
“I feel very happy that same-sex couples can finally register and be listed as each other’s spouse,” he said.
Taipei City Hall also hosted an outdoor wedding party at the foot of Taipei 101, with dignitaries from Canada, Spain and the UK giving speeches welcoming Taiwan into the handful of democracies that have legalized same-sex marriage.
Some foreign representative offices including the American Institute in Taiwan and the Australian Office in Taipei took to social media to congratulate Taiwan on becoming the first nation in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage, but the issue has polarized society.
Conservative and religious groups mobilized and comfortably won a series of referendums in November last year in which voters comprehensively rejected defining marriage as anything other than a union between a man and a woman.
The Happiness of the Next Generation Alliance has criticized the act, calling it a severe contravention of the result of the referendums, which it “trampled on.”
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