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Taiwan is on-track to become the very first Asian locale to legalize same-sex marriage, but not if those who oppose marriage equality have anything to say about it. Thursday saw tens of thousands of people storm Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan building as lawmakers reviewed bills that would make gay marriage legal.
The protesters—many of whom were dressed in white, and who were reportedly bused in from all over the country—took to the streets outside Taipei’s judiciary committee proceedings, shouting that the bills were being considered in a “black box.” The crowds demanded public hearings on the issue of same-sex marriage, with some calling for a plebiscite. Among those protesting, according to The New York Times, was the Alliance of Religious Groups for the Love of Families Taiwan, a group initially formed to block Taiwan’s 2013 bill.
After years of efforts by activists and legislators, hopes for legalisation were boosted with the election in January this year of Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), who campaigned on marriage equality. Her party has traditionally been more favorable – albeit not universally – to LGBT rights than the more conservative Kuomintang (KMT), which for the first time in Taiwan’s history lost its majority in the January elections.
Currently in Taiwan, nearly 60% of the Legislative Yuan’s members support legalization of same-sex marriage, and recently 200 judges signed a petition saying gay marriage would benefit the country.
Jennifer Lu, a researcher at one of the country’s oldest LGBT organizations, says, “We appreciate that legislators acknowledge the fact that LGBT families need this protection by the law. We also appreciate that some members of the legislature are working very hard to make things happen. … Taiwan could be the first country in Asia to have marriage equality law. That’s based on our democratic system, which we’re working very hard to protect. Sadly, some KMT legislators are using undemocratic means to try to block the process.”
Lu is hoping the same-sex marriage amendments are passed during the current legislative session, but for now, the protests worked to some extent, as the legislative caucuses have agreed to hold hearings on legalization before continuing their deliberations.
(Photo by J. Michael Cole via Hong Kong Free Press)