Crowds Cheer, Cry and Embrace as Taiwan Legalises Gay Marriage

LGBT activists celebrate the decision outside the parliament building in Taipei May 24

TAIPEI, Taiwan In a first for Asia, Taiwan's Constitutional Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage on Wednesday, punctuating a yearslong campaign by advocates for gay rights in one of the continent's most liberal democracies.

The Constitutional Court, in a 12-2 ruling, said the Civil Code provisions that define marriage as between a man and a woman are unconstitutional because they are in violation of both the people's freedom of marriage as protected by Article 22 and the people's right to equality as guaranteed by Article 7.

However, Lu Tai-lang, secretary general of the constitutional court, said on Wednesday that even if the authorities fail to revise the law within two years, "gay couples can always register with local household offices to make their marriages legal and. enjoy the same rights as heterosexual couples".

Trying to gauge the extent of support for gay rights in China is hard as no proper polls are published, said Sun Wenlin, whose landmark case past year seeking permission to marry his boyfriend was rejected by a Chinese court.

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Now that the impetus for change has speeded up again, the debate between amending existing laws, which is what the gay rights movement is demanding, and the drawing up of new separate legislation specifically aimed at same-sex marriage, which has been condemned as leaving gays as second-class citizens, is also certain to arise again.

The LGBTQ community in Taiwan has fought for same-sex marriage for years.

The decision has enraged anti-gay marriage groups, which have poured scorn on the court's ruling, calling it the greatest shame in Taiwan's judicial history.

The other request was filed by the Taipei city government the same year after three same-sex couples lodged an administrative lawsuit against the government when their marriage registrations were rejected, CNA reported.

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"While I think it is still a long way to the equality dominos falling all over Asia, I think a few East Asian countries, such as Japan and Vietnam, may be more ready to consider equality legislation", Ray Chan, Hong Kong's first openly gay lawmaker, told AFP.

The ruling from the court has come in response to two petitions to review the current law. "It's a pity that the mainland has not taken this step", said Sun Wenlin, one of the men in the case. It could still take up to two years before same-sex marriages are allowed to be performed. The justices called sexual orientation an "immutable characteristic that is resistant to change".

"I believe public opinion will win in the end, despite the unilateral decision made by the grand justices", Yu said. They have also fitted their Australian shops with post boxes so that people can send postcards to their MPs, showing their support for a same-sex union.

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