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Taiwan to become first Asian country to recognise gay marriage following court ruling

Taiwan’s top court has ruled that current regulations prohibiting marriage between partners of the same sex are unconstitutional.

The constitutional court’s ruling means that the island is set to become the first Asian country to recognise same-sex marriage.

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LGBT rights protest in Taiwan in December. File photo: Marriage Equality Coalition via Facebook.

Announcing the result of a two-month-long constitutional review on Wednesday afternoon, the panel of 14 judges ordered the legislature to either amend the Civil Code or introduce new provisions to recognise same-sex marriage within two years.

The court said that the current regulations are in violation of constitutional rights to the freedom of marriage and equality among citizens.

“The current provisions of the Marriage Chapter do not allow two persons of the same sex to create a permanent union of intimate and exclusive nature,” wrote the court in a press release. “This is obviously a gross legislative flaw.”

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Same-sex activists hug outside the parliament in Taipei on May 24, 2017 as they celebrate the landmark decision paving the way for the island to become the first place in Asia to legalise gay marriage. Photo: Sam Yeh/AFP.

Two of the 14 judges dissented, while one refrained from filing an opinion.

Celebrations

Hundreds of same-sex marriage supporters celebrated in Taipei outside the legislature, in a demonstration held by gay rights group Marriage Equality Coalition.

“We can finally get married!” shouted demonstrators outside the Legislative Yuan.

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Pro (L) and anti (R) same-sex marriage demonstrators in Taipei. Photo: Apple Daily / NOWNews screenshot.

Opponents, however, remain camped outside the judiciary building following their protest on Tuesday. Anti-gay rights activist Abdulluh Musad has staged an ongoing hunger strike for four days at Taipei’s Liberty Square.

30-year struggle

Wednesday’s review was brought to court by two parties, one of which is Chi Chia-wei, a 59-year-old gay rights activist who first attempted to register a marriage with his male partner in 1986.

With Taiwan under martial law at the time, he was imprisoned for five months. The legislature responded to his petition calling homosexuality “a perversion of a minority.”

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Gay rights activist Chi Chia-wei (centre). Photo: Central News Agency screenshot.

Chi was joined in his current petition by the Department of Civil Affairs of the Taipei government, which earlier said it would respect the court’s ruling no matter what.

See also: Deep divisions in Taiwan over gay marriage reform

Existing regulations stipulating marriage as a union between a man and a woman have also been challenged in a bill proposed by legislator Yu Mei-nu of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party. The Legislative Yuan passed the first of three readings of the bill last December, but a final review is not expected until later this year.

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Taiwan to become first Asian country to recognise gay marriage following court ruling