Taiwan first in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage

Same-sex couples will be allowed to file applications for registering a marriage with government agencies.

Matthias Ang | May 17, 2019, 04:53 PM

It's official.

Taiwan's parliament has passed a bill on May 17, 2019 to legalise same-sex marriage.

Under the new landmark ruling, same-sex couples will be allowed to form "permanent exclusive unions" and file applications for "registering a marriage" with government agencies.

Additionally, the bill also allows same-sex couples to adopt a child who is a blood relation, according to the South China Morning Post.

However, this does not extend to adoption of non-biological children, Taiwan News reported.

In response to the ruling, Taiwan President Tsai-Ing Wen tweeted that this is a "chance to make history" and show that "progressive values" can take root in an East Asian society:

Passed after a parliamentary vote

The ruling was the outcome of a session that had been held on the same day, in Taiwan's parliament, to vote on the issue, Focus Taiwan reported.

Three different bills were tabled -- one by the Cabinet, one by the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) party, and one by a Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) member Lin Tai-hua, who represented Christian groups.

The Cabinet's bill was the one which received the most votes.

It is also considered to be the most progressive of the three because it used the word "marriage" and offered limited adoption rights.

What the conservative Bills proposed

The bill tabled by the KMT was initiated by conservative groups.

It grants more limited rights and defines the legal status of same-sex relationship as "familial relationships", both SCMP and TN reported.

The bill tabled by Lin was initiated by Christian groups and defined the legal status of a same-sex relationship as a "same-sex union".

This bill also included a provision that actions or words that oppose same-sex relationships, along with teachings that such relationships are wrong, will not be ruled as discriminatory.

One area that all three bills have in common, however, is that none of them have any provision for same-sex marriages between a Taiwanese and a foreign national, which means such unions will still be illegal.

Didn't Taiwan vote to reject same-sex marriage in a referendum?

Taiwan did vote in a referendum held in November 2018, with a majority voting for marriage to be kept between a man and a woman.

However, referendum results cannot overturn the ruling of Taiwan's Constitutional Court, its highest court.

This means that such a result cannot affect the 2017 ruling made by the Constitutional Court, which declared the prohibition on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional.

Additionally, according to The Diplomat, the constitutional court has maintained that its decision must go into effect by May 24, 2019, regardless of legislative action.

This means if legislation is not enacted by that date, same-sex couples can register for marriage in accordance with the Civil Code.

DPP caucus leader Ker Chien-ming was quoted as stating that it was important to have legislation passed by May 24, otherwise there would be chaos, Bloomberg reported.

Ker said: "Taiwan can’t afford the possible chaos if we don’t have legislation in place to govern the civic relations between same-sex couples."

Same-sex marriage supporters rejoice, conservatives accuse government of ignoring majority

In the meantime, supporters of same-sex marriage have voiced their happiness at the passing of the Bill.

Jennifer Lu, the spokesperson for Marriage Equality Coalition Taiwan was quoted by Al Jazeera saying:

"For the gay communities what matters the most is whether we can legally get married on May 24 and be listed as the spouse in ID cards, to be treated and respected as the 'spouse' in the whole legal system... and whether same-sex families can obtain legal parental rights for their children."

Meanwhile, Tseng Hsien-ying, the President of the Coalition for the Happiness of Our Next Generation, accused the government of trampling on the will of the people, Focus Taiwan highlighted.

He explained that the will of the Taiwanese had been made clear in the November 2018 referendum when the majority, or 7.65 million people, voted in favour of retaining the Taiwanese Civil Code's definition of marriage as between a man and a woman.

Meanwhile, Tsai had said that the Cabinet's bill is the only one that respects the court judgement and 2018 referendum results.

The bill is expected to be signed into law by Tsai before May 24 deadline.

Top image via Flickr