The constitutional court in Taiwan has recognised the right of same-sex couples to legally marry. The Judicial Yuan, as the court is known, stated that the current marriage laws were in violation of both an individual’s freedom of marriage and right to equality. There will be a two year period to allow for amendments to the law after which time if the laws are not amended or enacted they will be put into force for those same-sex couples who wish to create a permanent union in marriage.
This ruling is the first to be seen in any Asian country and was driven by a case brought by gay rights activist Chi Chia-wei following the rejection of the Taipei city government of his application to marry his long-term partner in 2013. Chi Chia-wei commented after the decision was announced “Taiwan society has enacted true gender equality, it means I can die without regret”.
The decision was taken by 14 judges with 12 of which formed the majority opinion with one judge partial dissenting and one judge fully dissenting. The wind of change started with President Tsai Ing-wen’s ruling party who battled with public opinion to introduce the right to gay marriage. The landslide victory achieved by the party last year, together with the tragic suicide of a French professor who was unable to marry his Taiwanese partner of 35 years and the ensuing public outcry was of considerable assistance in obtaining the right. However, there is still a body of opposition in Taiwan, with one 62 year old woman stating “this will open the floodgates of sexual liberation, there will be no limits, People will have no shame. No family values. It will create confrontations between parents and children.”
Whilst there may still be a divided society in Taiwan, at least the more enlightened are moving in the right direction and it could be said that Taiwan deserves its reputation of being a beacon of liberalism in the region, as the first Asian country to take this step.