Taiwan makes history as Asia’s first to endorse gay marriage

A supporter stands outside the parliament building as the debate over the three draft bills of the same-sex marriage law continued

Conservative and religious groups have been buoyed by a series of referendum wins in November, in which voters comprehensively rejected defining marriage as anything other than a union between a man and a woman.

On Friday - only a week off the two-year deadline - lawmakers in Taiwan's Legislative Yuan passed a bill making same-sex marriage a reality. She has spoken for same-sex marriage several times since she was elected in January 2016.

Taiwan's top court has ruled that not allowing same-sex couples to marry violates the constitution. The court gave the government two years to revise the law, or same-sex couples would automatically be allowed to have their marriages registered by the local authorities.

Demonstrators braved heavy rain outside parliament in Taipei, the capital, with some embracing tearfully as others hailed the vote with chants of "Asia's first", and "Way to go, Taiwan!".

"We've seen a new phenomenon of gay rights receiving cross-party support", it said. "We took a big step toward true equality, and made Taiwan a better country".

Lawmakers pressured by LGBT groups as well as by church organizations opposed to the move approved most of a government-sponsored bill that recognizes same-sex marriages and gives couples numerous tax, insurance and child custody benefits available to male-female married couples.

"For me the outcome today is not 100 percent ideal, 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.

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Ms Tsai's ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) holds the majority in Parliament, occupying 68 out of 113 seats.

It's not yet clear what the law will mean for rights such as adoption and cross-national marriages, topics that will be part of continuing parliamentary discussion on Friday, according to Reuters.

Widespread public opposition to gay marriage, including by DPP supporters, presents Tsai with a dilemma.

"Catholicism's definition of marriage is one man, one woman", said Chen Ke, a Catholic pastor in Taiwan and an opponent of same-sex marriage. The new bill will now go into effect next week and gay couples are already lining up to officially Wednesday.

Thousands of people, including same-sex couples, demonstrated Friday morning in the rainy streets outside parliament before the vote.

The government's bill created a new law specifically outlining same-sex marriage outside the Civil Code in order to comply with the plebiscite.

The vote - which took place on the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia - is a major victory for the island's LGBT community and it places the island at the vanguard of Asia's burgeoning gay rights movement.

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