In a landmark ruling, Taiwan's Constitutional Court paves the way for Taiwan to become the first asian country to recognise same-sex marriage.
The Constitutional Court of Taiwan has ruled in favour of gay rights activist Chi Chia-wei, 58, deciding that current laws blocking same-sex marriage violate the constitution.
Chi Chia-wei bought the case to Taiwan’s highest court two years ago, after the Taipei city government rejected his and his long-time partner’s application to marry in 2013. He has been fighting for the right to marry his partner for three decades.
“Taiwan society has enacted true gender equality,” Chi told Bloomberg.com after the decision. “It means I can die without regret.”
The ruling gives Taiwan’s parliament two years to either change existing laws to allow same-sex marriage or introduce new civil partnerships. If Parliament does not abide by the two year time frame, same sex couples will be able to register to marry.
The court ruling states that “Persons eligible to marry shall have their freedom to marry, which includes the freedom to decide ‘whether to marry’ and ‘whom to marry.’”
A bill to introduce marriage equality is currently before Taiwan’s parliament and earlier this year it looked like marriage equality would become a reality. However, the legislation is being blocked by conservative Christian groups, who are fighting the bill.
The issue of marriage equality has divided the country, with thousands of people on both sides of the debate protesting in the last few months. Protesters against the ruling gathered outside the court on Wednesday.
Taiwan is one of Asia’s most progressive countries, with a large pride parade and a president who is pro-marriage equality. President Tsai Ing-wen, head of the Democratic Progressive Party, came to power last year after announcing her support for LGBTI rights and marriage equality.
Asia is a deeply conservative region, where 23 out of 46 countries criminalise same-sex behaviour. Two men were publicly caned in Indonesia on Tuesday 23rd May as punishment for having consensual gay sex.