A first in Asia, Taiwan all set to legalise same-sex marriages
Su Shan and her partner are raising 5-month-old twins together, but only one of the women is their legal parent. That could soon change as Taiwan appears set to become the first place in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage.
“Now, if something happens to the child, the other partner is nothing but a stranger,” said Su, a software engineer in Taipei. By contrast, either partner in a legally recognised marriage could make legal, medical and educational decisions, she says.
Taiwanese lawmakers are working on three Bills in support of marriage equality, one of which is already listed for review and could be passed in months. Same-sex marriage also has the prominent support of President Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan’s first female head of state.
About 80 per cent of Taiwanese aged between 20 and 29 years support same-sex marriage, said Tseng Yen-jung, spokeswoman for the group Taiwan LGBT Family Rights Advocacy, citing local university studies. Taiwan’s United Daily News had found in a survey conducted four years ago that 55 per cent of the public supported same-sex marriage, with 37 per cent opposed.
That’s seen as a reflection of Taiwan’s ready acceptance of multi-party democracy and other inclusive attitudes, as well as the fact that Taiwan’s 23 million people largely follow Buddhism and Chinese religions that take no strong positions on sexual orientation or gay marriage.
Gay relationships began to find wide acceptance in the 1990s, aided by the already well-established feminist movement, said Jens Damm, associate Professor in the Graduate Institute of Taiwan Studies at Chang Jung University in Taiwan. “The elite became in favor of a kind of gender equality,” Damm said.
Still, same-sex marriage still had to overcome traditional perceptions of gender roles and the strong pressure on children to marry and have kids. The self-ruled island also lacks many openly gay and lesbian celebrities to lead the way; the writer and television talk show host Kevin Tsai is among the few exceptions.