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Taiwan gay marriage: Parliament legalises same-sex unions

Taiwan gay marriage: Parliament legalises same-sex unions

Same-sex marriage supporters outside the Legislative Yuan in Taipei

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Same-sex marriage supporters stood outside the parliament as the bill was debated

Taiwan's parliament has become the first in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage following a vote on Friday.

In 2017, the island's constitutional court ruled that same-sex couples had the right to legally marry.

Parliament was given a two-year deadline and was required to pass the changes by 24 May.

Lawmakers debated three different bills to legalise same-sex unions – the government's bill – the most progressive of the three was passed.

Hundreds of gay rights supporters gathered in the rain outside the court building in the capital, Taipei, to await the landmark ruling.

What does the bill entail?

The two other bills, submitted by conservative lawmakers, refer to partnerships as "same-sex family relationships" or "same-sex unions" rather than "marriages".

But the government's bill, also the only one to offer limited adoption rights, was passed by 66 to 27 votes – backed by lawmakers from the majority Democratic Progressive Party.

It will take effect after Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen passes it into law.

Several same-sex activists had said ahead of the vote that this was the only version they would accept.

"The [government]'s bill is already our bottom line, we won't accept any more compromise," Jennifer Lu, the chief coordinator of rights group Marriage Equality Coalition Taiwan told Reuters.

"If one of the two other bills is passed, we will launch another constitutional court challenge."

Earlier on Friday, Ms Tsai said in a tweet that the island had a "chance to make history" with the vote.

Skip Twitter post by @iingwen

Good morning #Taiwan. Today, we have a chance to make history & show the world that progressive values can take root in an East Asian society.
Today, we can show the world that #LoveWins.

— 蔡英文 Tsai Ing-wen (@iingwen) May 17, 2019


End of Twitter post by @iingwen

How did we get here?

In 2017, Taiwan's constitutional court ruled that same-sex couples had the right to legally marry.

It said then that the island had two years to make necessary changes to the law – it had until 24 May to do so.

But this was met with a public backlash, which pressured the government into holding a series of referendums.

The referendum results showed that a majority of voters in Taiwan rejected legalising same-sex marriage, saying that the definition of marriage was the union of a man and woman.

As a result, Taiwan said it would not alter its existing definition of marriage in civil law, and instead would enact a special law for same-sex marriage.

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