Taiwan Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage
May 24th marked a victory for Taiwan’s same-sex couples: the island’s court declared laws prohibiting gay marriage to be unconstitutional. Now, Taiwan’s government has two years to modify the Civil Code to accommodate the much-needed change. If they fail meet the deadline, same-sex couples will be allowed to marry by default and will be legally recognized in a manner parallel to that of straight couples.
This outcome was not a surprise. Taiwan’s current president, Tsai Ing-wen, aligned herself with the cause during her campaign. One year after taking office, she has continued to advocate for gay rights. Ing-wen’s Democratic Progressive Party passed the first draft for a bill legalizing same-sex marriage in December.
The slow-moving debate was brought to the surface by plaintiff Chi Chia-wei, a 59-year-old activist. Chia-wei was jailed after coming out as gay in 1986. He has since acted as a political crusader, filing a lawsuit to overturn anti-gay legislation. Two years later, the suit had progressed into the high-profile case addressed by the court in Taipei.
Taiwan has recently emerged as a prominent leader in LGBT equality. While other countries, such as Indonesia, are known for criminalizing homosexuality, gay Taiwanese are able to serve in the military and celebrate in a large pride parade each year. The decision has been met with some homophobia and backlash from conservatives, but many are hopeful the new law will be the first of many steps in cultivating a more progressive culture.
As the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage, Taiwan is mapping uncharted territory. The country sought to model itself after Western ideals, such as those practiced in the United States. A US resident myself, I'm glad to hear that, but it's also worrisome to know that while other countries are progressing, our legalization of gay marriage is being threatened under Trump and Pence’s rule. Many fear that the two will attempt to overturn laws that allow for gay marriage and protect the rights of LGBT individuals.
While we can't predict when the legislation will be put into action, we hope it's not long before the two year deadline and that it gives surrounding Asian countries a not-so-gentle push to follow suit. After all, Taiwan will only be the 22nd out of 200 countries to do so. When it comes to same-sex marriage, we’ve still got a long way to go.