First in Asia: Taiwan parliament passes bill legalising same-sex marriage

Taiwan became the first place in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage on Friday, as thousands of demonstrators outside parliament cheered and waved rainbow flags, despite deep divisions over marriage equality.

Lawmakers from the majority Democratic Progressive Party (DPP backed the bill, which passed 66 to 27, though the measure could complicate President Tsai Ing-wen’s bid to win a second term in presidential elections next year.

Despite heavy rain, some demonstrators outside parliament in Taipei, the capital, embraced tearfully while others hailed the vote with chants of “Asia’s first,” and “Way to go, Taiwan!”

The bill, which offers same-sex couples similar legal protections for marriage as heterosexuals, will take effect after Tsai signs it into law.

“Today, we have a chance to make history and show the world that progressive values can take root in an East Asian society,” Tsai wrote on Twitter before the vote.

“Today, we can show the world that #LoveWins,” added Tsai, who campaigned on a promise of marriage equality in the 2016 presidential election.

It was not immediately clear, however, if same-sex couples are entitled to key rights, such as adoon and cross-national marriage, with parliament continuing to discuss the measure on Friday.

The vote followed a years-long tussle over marriage equality that culminated in a 2017 declaration by the democratic island’s constitutional court giving same-sex couples the right to marry, and setting a deadline of May 24 for legislation.

Taipei’s colourful gay pride parade, one of Asia’s largest, puts on display every year the vibrancy of the island’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT community.