Lawmakers in Taiwan voted on Friday and approved a bill legalizing same-sex marriage, a landmark decision that makes the self-ruled island the first place in Asia to pass gay marriage legislation.
The historic vote came almost two years after the island’s Constitutional Court ruled that the existing law — which said marriage was between a man and a woman — was unconstitutional. The panel of judges gave the island’s parliament two years to amend or enact new laws.
On Friday — only a week off the two-year deadline — lawmakers in Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan passed a bill making same-sex marriage a reality. The bill will go into effect on May 24, a boost for LGBTQ rights activists who had championed the cause for two decades.
Although the island has a large gay community and its annual gay pride parade is the biggest in Asia, the issue of marriage equality has bitterly divided Taiwanese society. In a controversial referendum in November last year, 67% voted to reject same-sex marriage.
Taiwan is the first place in Asia with a comprehensive law both allowing and laying out the terms of same-sex marriage. This government-sponsored bill recognizes same-sex marriages and gives couples many of the tax, insurance and child custody benefits available to straight married couples.
“It will have a very positive impact on China’s LGBT community, offering us a lot of hope,” said Xiaogang Wei, who heads the Beijing Gender Health Education Institute. Wei told reporters that the bill’s passing is a historic moment, not only for Asia but for the global LGBTQ rights movement.
“The Chinese government has pointed to cultural tradition as a reason for same-sex marriage being unsuitable in China. But the decision in Taiwan, which shares a cultural tradition with us, proves that Chinese culture can be open, diverse and progressive.”