Officials in Taiwan have passed a law allowing same-sex marriage in a first for an Asian country, prompting the country’s president to declare that “love won”.
Thousands of demonstrators outside parliament cheered and waved rainbow flags when the news was announced, despite deep divisions over marriage equality.
The vote on Friday allows same-sex couples full legal marriage rights, including in areas such as taxes, insurance and child custody, the Press Association reports.
Taiwan’s Constitutional Court in May 2017 said the constitution allows same-sex marriages and gave parliament two years to adjust laws accordingly.
Taiwan’s acceptance of gay and lesbian relationships began in the 1990s when leaders in today’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party championed the cause to help Taiwan stand out in Asia as an open society.
Although claimed by China as its own territory, Taiwan is a self-governing democracy with a vibrant civil society.
Friday’s measure could prove a challenge to Tsai’s bid for a second term in a January presidential election, after a poll defeat last year for her DPP was blamed partly on criticism of her reform agenda, including marriage equality, Reuters reports.
Late last year, Taiwan voters opposed same-sex marriage in a series of referendums, defining marriage as being between a man and a woman, while seeking a special law for such unions.
“How can we ignore the result of the referendums, which demonstrated the will of the people?” John Wu, a legislator from the opposition Kuomintang party, asked parliament before Friday’s vote.
“Can we find an appropriate compromise solution? We need more dialogue in society.”
Conservative groups that oppose same-sex marriage said the legislation disrespected the people’s will.
“The will of some seven million people in the referendum has been trampled,” one group, the Coalition for the Happiness of Our Next Generation said in a statement. “The massive public will strike back in 2020.”
Australia passed laws allowing same-sex marriage in 2017, but such unions are not recognised by Hong Kong and neighbouring China, which regards Taiwan as a wayward province to be brought back into the fold by force if necessary.