In a first for Asia, Taiwan moves to legalize same-sex marriage

In Taipei, Taiwan, this morning there was jubilation in the streets.

The island’s highest court had just struck down Taiwan’s anti–gay marriage laws as unconstitutional, paving the way for the first system of legalized same-sex marriage anywhere in Asia. “The judges have today said yes to marriage equality,” Amnesty International’s Lisa Tassi told NPR. “This is a huge step forward for LGBTI rights in Taiwan and will resonate across Asia.”

The big winners are people like Chi Chai-Wei, a Taiwanese LGBTQ rights activist who has been fighting to marry his partner for more than 30 years.

“I’m leaping with joy like a bird,” he told the Telegraph. “It’s been a long fight, and I’m in need of a good sleep.”

The Taiwanese high court’s ruling was blunt. “The provisions” of Taiwan’s current civil code on marriage, the legal ruling read, “do not allow two persons of the same sex to create a permanent union of intimate and exclusive nature for the committed purpose of managing a life together.”

The court ruled that those provisions privileged heterosexual Taiwanese over their same-sex counterparts — and made some more equal before the law than others.

The court then went further, dictating that within two years a new law needed to be on the books that would allow full freedom to marry. If no specific law appears before that time, same-sex couples will, by default, simply be allowed to register in the same manner as their straight friends.

The issue, the court underscored, was one of “human dignity.”

Now legislators will be tasked with coming up with a law specifically allowing same-sex marriage, or they will need to amend the current civil code to include gay men and lesbians. LGBTQ activists hope for the latter, the BBC reported today, as there is concern about half-measures that would still institutionalize inequality (like approving same-sex unions but barring gay and lesbian couples from adopting children).

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