Taiwan Became First Asian Country to Legalize Gay Marriage

Taiwan’s Constitutional Court ruled on Wednesday, May 24 that the laws that prohibit same-sex marriage prohibit the couples’ personal freedom and equal protection.

“The judges have today said yes to marriage equality,” said Amnesty International’s Lisa Tassi, who directs campaigns in East Asia. “This is a huge step forward for LGBTI rights in Taiwan and will resonate across Asia.”

Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan’s (first female) president urged the Ministry of Justice to come up with a legal framework to comply with the decision. Same-sex marriage was one of the key issues during Tsai Ing-wen’s presidential campaign.

Taiwan’s government is given two years to adjust its marriage laws. If the deadline passes without any legislative action, same-sex couples will be allowed to register for marriage and become “a legally recognized couple.”

It took thirty years for Taiwan to finally be the first country in Asia that recognizes same-sex marriage. It began with Chi Chia-wei (sometimes written as Qi Jia-wei), who has fought for gay rights for three decades and sought a marriage license sixteen years ago.

Chi Chia-wei (Photo by Sam Yeh of AFP/Getty Images)

In the news release, The Taiwanese Constitutional Court states that the freedom to decide whether to marry and whom to marry is “is vital to the sound development of personality and safeguarding of human dignity, and therefore is a fundamental right.”

The court adds that same-sex marriage will not affect the rights of those in straight marriage.

In addition to being underrepresented in politics and the government, Taiwanese queer community has a long history of discrimination and there are groups that oppose same-sex marriage. These groups protested outside of the court after the result came out. After declaring the ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, the Taiwanese Constitutional Court also promises that “in determining the constitutionality of different treatment based on sexual orientation, a heightened standard shall be applied.”

Featured photo of same-sex marriage supporters in Taiwan, cheering after the court’s ruling. Wednesday, May 24, 2017. Photo by Chiang Ying-ying/AP Photo.

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Yuska Lutfi Tuanakotta

Yuska came from Indonesia to the US in 2011 to pursue dance and creative writing. He has two MFAs in Creative Writing, and was a 2014 Lambda Literary Foundation Fellow. His debut nonfiction book is titled Gentlemen Prefer Asians: Tales of Gay Indonesians and Green Card Marriages.