Back to list

Taiwan becomes first Asian country to legalize gay marriage (update)

2019/05/17 20:18:02

Taipei, May 17 (CNA) Taiwan made history Friday as the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage, after most lawmakers from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and a few from the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) voted to pass a Cabinet-sponsored bill that gives gay couples the right to get married.

The 27-article bill, titled Enforcement Act of Judicial Yuan Interpretation No. 748, cleared the legislative floor at 3:30 p.m. Friday against the backdrop of loud cheers from tens of thousands of gay marriage supporters gathered outside the Legislative Yuan.

DPP Legislator Yu Mei-nu (尤美女), a longtime champion of gay rights, expressed gratitude to her colleagues at the Legislature and other same-sex marriage supporters, saying that their efforts have helped "let the rainbow rise."

The new law will take effect May 24, allowing two persons of the same gender, aged 18 or older, to register a marriage, with at least two witnesses signing the registration document.

Either partner in the marriage will be allowed to adopt the biological children of the other, under the law. However, non-biological children who had been adopted by one partner before the marriage cannot be adopted by the other partner, it states.

A motion submitted by the New Power Party (NPP) caucus to amend Article 20 of the Cabinet's bill to make possible the adoption of one partner's non-biological children by the other was not put to a vote after lawmakers passed the Cabinet's version of the article on adoption.

Prior to Friday's plenary session, there had been concerns as to whether the Legislature would be able to pass its version of Article 2 and Article 4, which are more controversial as they govern the definition of the type of relationship gay couples will be allowed to create and the process they have to undergo to get married.

To reduce the pressure DPP lawmakers may face from their conservative constituents, the Executive Yuan adopted a motion proposed by the DPP caucus the previous day that removed the sensitive term "same-sex marriage" from Article 2.

In exchange, the phrase "to register for marriage" was added to Article 4 to ensure the bill does not violate the spirit of Constitutional Court Interpretation No. 748, which ordered lawmakers to deliver a bill to guarantee same-sex couples' freedom of marriage and right to equality by May 24.

Although some DPP lawmakers chose to be absent during the votes on Article 2 and Article 4 in defiance of party orders, the Executive Yuan's version of the two articles was still passed by a majority of votes in the 113-seat Legislature, passing 75-22 and 66-27 respectively.

Seven KMT lawmakers voted in support of both articles, against party instructions, including Hsu, Chiang Wan-an (蔣萬安), Ko Chih-en (柯志恩), Lee Yen-hsiu (李彥秀), Hsu Shu-hua (許淑華), Chen Yi-ming (陳宜民) and Lin Yi-hua (林奕華), while KMT Legislator Lin Wei-chou (林為洲) cast a yes vote on Article 2.

On the issue of same-sex transnational marriages, lawmakers voted 84-6 against an NPP motion to amend the Cabinet's bill to allow transnational same-sex couples from any country to get married in Taiwan.

The six votes in favor of the motion included all five NPP lawmakers and Kuomintang (KMT) Legislator Jason Hsu (許毓仁).

The NPP motion sought to exempt such couples from regulations stipulated in the Act Governing the Choice of Law in Civil Matters Involving Foreign Elements, which state that the marriage of a transnational couple is governed by the laws of their respective countries.

Under that act, even with the legalization of same-sex marriage in Taiwan, a Taiwanese national would not be able to enter into a legally recognized union with a partner from a country where gay marriage is not legal.

Due to their legislative majority, DPP lawmakers were able to pass all the articles stipulated in the Executive Yuan version, without having to vote on comparable clauses in the two other bills submitted by KMT Legislator Lai Shyh-bao (賴士葆) and DPP Legislator Lin Tai-hua (林岱樺) respectively, which were deemed far less favorable to the gay community.

The Executive Yuan's version was listed as the first bill to be voted on and legislative rules state that there is no need to vote on other comparable clauses if the previous one is passed.

In a speech he gave after the Executive Yuan's bill passed its third reading, Jason Hsu thanked other KMT lawmakers who also voted in support of Article 2 and Article 4, saying that their brave actions made him feel "less alone."

"I believe when we look back on this day, we will know we did a remarkable thing," he said. "Even though I may not be able to stay in the Legislature in the future, I believe we together have left a voice of diversity in the KMT's history at this historic moment."

(By Stacy Hsu)