Taiwan on track to be first place in Asia with same-sex marriage

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Same-sex marriage supporters wave rainbow Taiwan flags after the Constitutional Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage outside the Legislative Yuan in Taipei, Taiwan, Wednesday, May 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying)

Taiwan is one step closer to becoming the first place in Asia where same-sex marriage is legal.

On Wednesday, a top court ruled that Taiwan’s Civil Code, which defines marriage as between “a man and a woman”, violates the people’s “freedom of marriage” and the “right to equality” under local laws.

Fourteen justices voted in favor of same-sex marriage, four more than the 10 needed. Two judges dissented.

The ruling says that in two years, the government must amend its laws restricting marriage “between a man and a woman,” or pass a new legislation that allows same-sex marriage.

If laws aren’t changed, gay couples will still be able to register their marriages throughout Taiwan, the ruling said.

The case reached the top court because of gay rights activist Chi Chia-wei.

He requested a high-court legal review after Taipei city officials and the lower courts rejected his application to marry his long-time partner in 2013.

Supporters burst into cheers after hearing the ruling.

Anti-gay protestors also held signs and shouted in front of the court building.

In a survey by the non-profit Taiwanese Public Opinion Foundation, 1,100 respondents were near evenly split—46.3 percent supported the legalization of same-sex marriage, while 45.4 percent opposed it.

Chinese mainland activists said they were encouraged by the news.

“The ruling proves that same-sex marriage is acceptable in Chinese culture, and is likely for the Chinese mainland to legalize gay marriage within a decade,” Li Yinhe, a sociologist at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times newspaper.

LGBT activist Sun Wenlin, who filed but lost China’s first-ever lawsuit to register a same-sex marriage in 2016, applauded the ruling.

“I think it has encouraged efforts to legalize same-sex marriage in the Chinese mainland,” Sun told the Global Times.

Some communities in Japan allow non-legally binding same-sex partnerships. Last year, a South Korean court rejected a gay couple’s petition to marry.

Just this week, two men were publicly caned 83 times each in Aceh, Indonesia for consensual gay sex, the Associated Press reported.

Indonesian police along with army officials in West Java have set up a task force to investigate and crack down on LGBT activities.

With information from Xinhua, The Global Times, AP, Reuters, The Huffington Post, The Guardian.