A massive crowd of protesters tried to provide the final push of encouragement as Taiwan teeters on the edge of becoming the first in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage.
Estimated by organizers to number between 200,000 and 250,000 by 4 p.m. on Saturday, gay marriage supporters continued to stream in and gather in front of the presidential palace on Taipei’s Ketagalan Boulevard well into the evening despite a steady drizzle of rain.
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has shown her support in favor of same-sex marriage. In response to Saturday’s rally, a presidential spokesperson quoted Tsai as saying, “All comrades have the right to marriage,” using the slang term for “homosexuals” that has been appropriated by the gay community from its CCP roots — though the Party is trying to take it back.
This weekend’s rally comes at a time when a bill to legalize same-sex marriage is on the verge of becoming law in Taiwan, requiring the support of just one more legislator to capture a house majority.
The new law would alter Taiwan’s definition of marriage by removing the terms “man” and “woman” and replacing them with “two people.”
The Alliance of Taiwan Religious Groups for the Protection of Family spokesperson David Tseng conceded that Saturday’s protest was large, but pointed out that last week’s protest against legalizing same-sex marriage had drawn an estimated 200,000 participants, as well.
Tseng said that Taiwan should resist following the example set by Western nations like Canada and the US, reasoning that the island has its own identity that is rooted in Confucian values.
“They want to amend the law to do away with the ‘father’ and ‘mother’ altogether. But we are different from the West,” said Tseng. “In Eastern culture, we place great importance on filial piety to one’s father and mother. This is a virtue we must keep.”
Pro-family groups have been successful in getting Taiwan’s legislature to agree to hold two public hearings before the bill moved forward, stalling its progress. Still, pro-same-sex marriage groups are hoping to have the new law passed before the end of the current legislative session this month.
The topic of marriage equality was first raised by Taiwan’s executive branch in 2003 but encountered fierce opposition from cabinet members and conservatives from the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) party. A previous attempt to pass a same-sex marriage law in Taiwan failed in 2013. However, in January, the pro-gay rights Democratic Progressive Party won a sweeping victory at the polls, taking over Taiwan’s legislature and presidency.
Tsai Ing-wen has openly voiced her support for gay marriage. During last year’s Pride celebrations, Tsai posted a video to her Facebook page backing marriage equality. All Taiwanese should have “the freedom to love and choose their own happiness,” Tsai’s message read.
By Charles Liu
[Images via Apple Daily / United Daily News]
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