Taiwan made history on Friday with Asia’s first legal gay weddings as same-sex couples tied the knot in jubilant and emotional scenes. This event marked the culmination of a three-decade fight for equality.
However, the issue has also caused deep divisions on an island that remains staunchly conservative. The law had faced opposition from people outside of the cities and among older generations. They have vowed to punish President Tsai Ing-wen and the lawmakers who supported the law at January’s elections when Taiwanese will elect both a new president and a new parliament.
The weddings place Taiwan at the vanguard of the burgeoning gay rights movement in Asia. Some 300 same-sex couples were expected to register their marriage on Friday. Also, according to local authorities, around 150 in the capital Taipei which boasts a thriving and vocal gay community.
“Now that same-sex marriage is legally recognised, I think my parents might finally feel that it’s real and stop trying to talk me into getting married [to a man],” Huang Mei-yu said.
Huang Mei-yu was one among those who are planning to tie the not with their partners. Social worker Huang Mei-yu will soon be tying the not with her partner Ya-ting.
High school sweetheart and belated celebrations
Shane Lin and Marc Yuan were the first to arrive at a government office in downtown Taipei. Dressed in matching suits, they embraced and kissed in front of a huge media scrum before signing their marriage certificates.
“It’s not been an easy journey and I’m very lucky to have the support of my other half, my family and friends,” Lin told reporters through tears.
“Today I can say in front of so many people that we are gay and we are getting married. I’m really proud that my country is so progressive,” he added.
They were soon followed by playwright LiYing Chien and her girlfriend, a cartoonist with the pen name Cynical Chick.
For veteran gay rights activist Chi Chia-Wei Friday’s 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. I am honoured to witness Friday’s marriage registrations,” he told AFP.
However, the new law still has restrictions that are not faced by heterosexual couples. Same-sex couples can currently only adopt their partners’ biological children. Furthermore, they can only wed foreigners from countries where gay marriage is also recognised.
Gay rights groups say they are willing to accept partial equality for now. However, they hope to later win legal battles over issues such as adoption, surrogacy and marrying foreigners.