Hundreds marry in Taiwan as same sex-marriage law takes effect

27, May. 2019

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TAIPEI, Kyodo - Hundreds of Taiwanese gay people registered their marriages on Friday when a landmark law came into force, making Taiwan the first place in Asia to legalize same-sex unions.

A total of 526 same-sex couples married around the island on Friday -- 185 male and 341 female couples.

Last Friday, lawmakers approved a government-sponsored bill enabling same-sex partners aged 18 and above to register their marriages at household registration offices.

It came after the Council of Grand Justices, the highest court in Taiwan, ruled on May 24, 2017 that the Civil Code, which stipulates that marriage is the legal union between a man and a woman, was unconstitutional.

As the law now stands, same-sex marriage partners enjoy similar legal protections as those enjoyed by heterosexuals such as financial benefits, inheritance rights and parental rights.

However, same-sex couples can legally raise children only if one party has a biological relationship with them.

Twenty gay couples registered their marriages at a household registration office in capital Taipei's Xinyi District on a perfect sunny day.

One male couple, using the aliases Hsiao-ming and Hsiao-shuan, shared their love story with the media.

Hsiao-ming said they had been going steady for 12 years before he finally mustered the courage to propose in January last year.

“We are so lucky to be able to get married today,” Hsiao-shuan said. “I'm also very proud of my country which passed the law so the younger generation doesn't have to go through what we've been through.”

Novelist Chen Xue and her partner Antonia Chen, who held their wedding ceremony 10 years ago, also completed their marriage registration at the Xinyi Household Registration Office.

Chen said the registration procedure took only three minutes, but it took them about 10 years to get this far.

“Today is just the beginning,” she said. “I hope our society will become more tolerant of homosexuality and more aware of gender equality.”

Those who registered Friday included the first same-sex couple including a foreign national, a pair of women. In total, 511 couples were Taiwanese while 15 couples were between Taiwanese and foreign nationals.

Under the new law, a foreign national whose native country recognizes same-sex marriage can marry a Taiwanese. There are around two dozen such countries.

The special occasion was also welcomed by foreign representative offices in Taiwan.

Describing Friday as “an important and historic day for Taiwan,” Jordan Reeves, head of the Canadian Trade Office in Taipei, said “we stand with our Taiwanese friends” on what he called a “wonderful” and “happy” day.

Calling legalization “not an easy issue” politically, Reeves said such was the case in Canada 14 years ago when it happened, but ever since then, by far most Canadians have come to support it.

“It didn't change society. It didn't change the institution of marriage and I think Canadians are proud today that all Canadians have the right to marry whom they love,” he said.

Andrew Pittam, deputy representative of the British Office Taipei, said the recognition of this “fundamental human right...says a lot about the state of democracy here in Taiwan.”

Madeleine Majorenko, head of the European Economic and Trade Office, said she felt “happy” and “proud” to share the happiness and love the newlyweds were sharing with each other.

She said love is the best gift anybody could give to another human being, adding, “That is what we are celebrating today.” (Kyodo)