TAIWAN’s constitutional court on Wednesday ruled in favour of same-sex unions in a landmark decision that paves the way for the island nation to become the first in Asia to legalise gay marriage.
According to reports, the court agreed that Taiwan’s current Civil Code, which stipulates that marriage must be between a man and a woman, violates constitutional guarantees of freedom of marriage and equality.
The Taiwanese government, the court added, will have two years to implement the ruling.
“If relevant laws are not amended or enacted within the said two years, two persons of the same sex who intend to create the said permanent union shall be allowed to have their marriage registration effectuated,” the court said, according to Reuters.
Taiwan's civil code forbidding same-sex marriage declared unconstitutional in Taiwan pic.twitter.com/kk4aXXou9W
— Stéphane CORCUFF (@stephanecorcuff) May 24, 2017
The decision is on a case filed by gay rights campaigner Chi Chia-wei, who asked the court to rule on the constitutionality of the Civil Code on the subject of marriage, according to The China Post.
With the decision, Taiwan’s Parliament will now have to amend the nation’s laws or pass new ones.
— Ministry of Culture (@CulturalTaiwan) May 24, 2017
Last December, lawmakers approved the first draft of a Bill to amend the Civil Code for the purpose of legalising same-sex marriages.
The Bill received mixed responses from Taiwanese, with thousands turning up to protest outside the legislature as it debated the matter.
But inside chambers, both the ruling and major opposition parties supported the measure. President Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan’s first female head of state, is also a strong advocate. Before she was elected last year, she publicly declared her support, saying, “in the face of love, everyone is equal.”
The Bill’s opponents comprised mostly of religious groups and some conservative politicians.
Opponents during the protest argued that gay marriages were “very confusing for children” as “the fundamental concept of what marriage is – the combination of a man and a women – should not be changed”.
Gay marriage advocates, however, insist the matter is about equality.
Today’s ruling will provide these advocates the backing they need to fight backlash from the country’s conservative lawmakers, especially as the Bill is about to face its second reading.
The China Post, quoting Kuomintang lawmaker Jason Hsu, says the next step will be for legislators to determine how to amend the law – whether to amend the Civil Code or enact fresh legislation specifically on same-sex marriages.
Taiwan has long been seen as a beacon of liberalism and LGBT rights, with a society that is largely accepting or tolerant of a group that commonly faces persecution elsewhere across the region.
Upon implementing laws permitting same-sex unions, Taiwan will join the likes of Canada, Colombia, Ireland, the US and over 16 other countries that have done the same over the past 15 years.