Gay rights activists are celebrating across the world after Taiwan’s top constitutional court ruled today that a ban against same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, paving the way for Taiwan to become the first in Asia to enjoy marriage equality.
The Council of Grand Justices in Taipei announced its long-awaited decision earlier this afternoon, ordering that the island’s Civil Code be revised within two years with new provisions to recognize same-sex marriage.
The landmark case was brought forward by veteran gay rights activist Chi Chia-wei after the Taipei government rejected his attempts to get his marriage to his long-time partner recognized.
In the case, the panel of 14 grand justices looked closely at a single line in Taiwan’s Civil Code which says that an agreement to marry should be made between “a man and a woman.” Authorities in Taiwan have been using this clause to reject applications for same-sex marriages, but critics say that it goes against the guarantees of equality and freedom of marriage that are made in Taiwan’s constitution.
The case went into session on March 24th. The ruling announced at 4 p.m. today was highly anticipated with hundreds of supporters and opponents of gay marriage lining the streets outside the courthouse, shouting slogans and holding up signs.
For some time now, Taiwan has been on the verge of marriage equality with a bill slowly working its way through parliament. In recent months, activists on both sides of the issue have taken to the streets to make their voices heard.
Opponents of same-sex marriage argue that Taiwanese society has its roots in Confucianism, which promotes a strong adherence to traditional family values, and of course, producing offspring. They argue that the fundamental concept of marriage should be between a man and a woman, otherwise it would be “very confusing for children.”
“Now they want to amend the law to do away with the ‘father’ and ‘mother’ altogether,” David Tseng, an anti-gay alliance’s spokesman told AFP last November. “We are different from the West. In Eastern culture, we place great importance on filial piety to one’s father and mother. This is a virtue we must keep.”
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. However, last January, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won a sweeping victory at the polls, taking over Taiwan’s legislature and presidency, giving gay rights activists renewed hope.
Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-wen has openly voiced her support for gay marriage. During the Pride celebrations in 2015, 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.
Watch below as gay rights supporters celebrate the long-awaited decision outside the courthouse:
Live: Gay rights supporters in Taiwan celebrate after the Constitutional Court said banning same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. pic.twitter.com/TsOsJG9Tsp
— The News Lens INTL (@thenewslensintl) May 24, 2017
Taiwan's civil code forbidding same-sex marriage declared unconstitutional in Taiwan pic.twitter.com/kk4aXXou9W
— Stéphane CORCUFF (@stephanecorcuff) May 24, 2017
You can read the full text of the ruling here.
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