Taiwan Set To Become First Asian Country To Allow Same-Sex Marriage
Feb 01, 2017 08:32 AM EST
Taiwan might just be the first Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage. The legislature committee approved the bill last Dec. 26 and has begun new session that will likely last until mid-year. Supporters are saying they have the endorsement of a bipartisan group of almost half of the parliament. Marriage equality also has the backing by President Tsai Ing-wen.
The majority of the Asian countries have a conservative culture but Taiwan remains to be one of the most gay-friendly places. It hosts an annual pride parade which is regarded as the largest in the continent. Previously, a similar bill was passed in 2013 but was not approved, causing gay right groups to press for political actions and build support. There was also the story of a French professor who committed suicide in Taipei after the death of his longtime Taiwanese partner.
In an interview, Yu Mei-nu said she was optimistic about its chances and that "We're almost close to passing it." Yu introduced the same-sex marriage bill and has worked as a woman's rights lawyer. Many are pushing for the bill to get approved before 2018 elections, as a change in seats could further delay implementation. One of them would be the Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline Association, the largest LGBT group in the country.
It was founded in 1998 and has offered hotline services for LGBT people during times of distress or when they need a listening ear. In a year, trained volunteers get to answer almost 2,000 calls. The group has evolved and now ventures into telling personal stories of gay people in Taiwan. During one of its talks, a professional noted that "LGBT people can be someone you see every day," and that the people have an influence in the political system.
Taiwan is known for its vigorous political protests and LGBT groups have made this as their biggest tool. A student at National Taiwan University claimed that it's his duty as a gay person to show up during these events and noted that protests are actually the opposite of what many would think as it is a very merry and joyful scene. A lesbian also said that if the same-sex marriage bill passes, it will broaden nondiscrimination policies and there will be no need to protest in the streets.
There are still some people worried about the effects that the same-sex marriage bill could bring should it pass legislation. Parents are particularly concerned that gay marriage would lead to AIDS or turn their children into gays. But Yu is very adamant of its constructive effects. The bill could uplift Taiwan's international profile, bring support from Western democracies and will pressure other Asian countries such as China and Japan to be more open about the issue.