THOUSANDS of Taiwanese staged protests outside the legislature Thursday both for and against a Bill that could make it the first place in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage.
Organizers estimated that the protests attracted more than 20,000 people who carried placards, flew flags and chanted slogans as lawmakers deliberated the Bill inside.
Both the ruling and major opposition parties support the measure, as do a majority of the public and President Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan’s first female head of state.
“How the law defines marriage should be decided by the entire population,” some demonstrators opposed to the Bill said, as quoted by The China Post.
Opponents include religious groups and some conservative politicians.
A hard-line conservative group fighting to stop the legalisation of gay marriage, the Alliance of Taiwan Religious Groups for the Protection of Family, organised one of the rallies.
The anti-gay marriage protesters, who were dressed in white clothes with large stickers emblazoned with the words “Marriage and family, let the people decide”, set up a temporary stage outside the Legislative Yuan and rallied there for over six hours.
The participants, who congested the main road outside the complex, also accused lawmakers planning a “black box vote” to pass the Bill.
The group sent a petition suggesting to legislators that individual clauses could be amended to cater to LGBT individuals, including emergency room visitation and inheritance rights.
However, they said gay marriage would be “very confusing for children” as “the fundamental concept of what marriage is — the combination of a man and a woman — should not be changed.”
Near the main demonstration opposed to gay marriage, another smaller and peaceful counter-rally was held to advocate marriage equality. Pro-gay marriage protesters waved rainbow flags and banners supporting the LGBT community, China Post reported.
Taiwan’s legislators are currently working on three Bills that supported marriage equality.
Last Wednesday, two amendments were tabled at Taiwan’s Legislature which, apart from offering same-sex couples the right to get married, allow gay couples to adopt children.
Before becoming law, the draft will still need to be discussed in the Legislature’s Judiciary and Organic Laws and Statutes Committee and then pass the second and third readings.
Citing local university studies Taiwan LGBT Family Rights Advocacy group, Tseng Yen-jung, said about 80 percent of Taiwanese between ages 20 and 29 support same-sex marriage.
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Taiwan’s United Daily News pointed out that 55 percent of the public supported same-sex marriage, with 37 percent opposed in a survey carried out four years ago.
The move to accept same-sex marriage is seen as a reflection of Taiwan’s ready acceptance of multi-party democracy and other inclusive attitudes.
It also reflects the fact that Taiwan’s 23 million people largely follow Buddhism and traditional Chinese religions that take no strong positions on sexual orientation or gay marriage.
Washington D.C.-based LGBT rights advocacy group Human Rights Campaign noted Taiwan would join Canada, Colombia, Ireland, the United States and 16 other countries that have legalized same-sex marriage over the past 15 years.
However, Taiwan stands to become a notable exception among Asian and Middle Eastern countries, of which at least 20 of which continue to ban same-sex intercourse, the Associated Press reported.
In 2015, Vietnam became the first country in Asia to lift a ban on same-sex marriages, but the union is not legally recognized anywhere in the country. This means gay marriage is permitted, but spouses have no legal protection.
Additional reporting by the Associated Press