Gay rights supporters assembled in the rain outside Taipei’s parliament building for the announcement of the landmark ruling that legalises same sex marriage in Taiwan.
The huge crowd cheered and waved rainbow flags. There were cries of joy as people hugged each other in happiness while the more traditional or conservative groups seethed with anger.
Taiwan’s parliament has become the first in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage following a vote on Friday (May 17).
Legislators belonging to the majority Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) supported the bill, which passed 66 to 27, however, the measure could muddle President Tsai Ing-Wen’s bid to win a second term in the 2020 presidential elections.
“Today is a proud day for Taiwan. We demonstrate the value of kindness and inclusiveness from this land to the world,” Tsai told media after the measure was passed.
“Through legalization, (we) ensure that everyone’s love is equal and everyone is treated equally,” added Tsai, who campaigned with a pledge to implement marriage equality in the 2016 presidential election.
Reactions and celebrations
“I’m very surprised – but also very happy. It’s a very important moment in my life,” Jennifer Lu, chief co-ordinator of rights group Marriage Equality Coalition Taiwan, told the BBC.
“However, it’s still not full marriage rights; we still need to fight for co-adoption rights, and we are not sure about foreigner and Taiwanese marriage, and also gender equality education.
“It’s a very important moment, but we are going to keep on fighting. We are Taiwanese and we want this important value for our country, for our future,” she added.
“For me the outcome today is not 100 percent perfect, but it’s still pretty good for the gay community as it provides legal definition,” said Elias Tseng, a gay pastor who spoke to the AFP news agency outside parliament.
Taiwanese singer Jolin Tsai posted a picture of a rainbow on Facebook accompanied by the caption “Congratulations!! Everyone deserves happiness!”
“What a tremendous victory for LGBT rights!” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
“Taiwan’s action today should sound a clarion call, kicking off a larger movement across Asia to ensure equality for LGBT people.”
“After 30 years of fighting, homosexuals can finally get married…. Many of us were in tears,” said 32-year-old musician Ken Chen.
Meanwhile in Singapore
A little over half of the people in Singapore – or 55% – endorse and are very supportive of Section 377A of the Penal Code, which criminalises consensual sex between adult men.
Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam commented: “In Singapore, if you look at this issue, it is a deeply split society. The majority are opposed to any change to Section 377A, they are opposed to removing it.”
However, he said that a “growing minority” want to have it repealed. “The Government is in the middle,” he stressed.
Which direction is Singapore heading to?
According to Mr. K Shanmugam, laws will have to keep pace with the shifts in societal points of view and it is up to Singapore’s society to decide which direction it wants to take when it comes to legislation on gay sex.
Under section 377A of Singapore’s Penal Code, a man found to have committed an act of “gross indecency” with another man could be jailed for up to two years.
Mr. Shanmugam said that while there is a growing minority who want 377A to be repealed, Singaporeans remain “deeply split” on the matter.
“This issue relates to social mores, values – so can you impose viewpoints on a majority when it so closely relates to a social value system?”
The minister’s statements reflect those previously made by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who made it very clear that many Singaporeans would want to keep the statute, and that Singapore society “is not that liberal on these matters.” /TISG
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