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Taiwan Becomes First in Asia to Recognize Same-Sex Marriage


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)

Taiwan’s Constitutional Court ruled in support of legalizing same-sex marriage Wednesday. It marked the first such ruling in Asia.

Rights activists celebrated the court’s decision. It followed years of campaigning by supporters of gay rights.

The court said current marriage laws were “in violation of both the people’s freedom of marriage...and the people’s right to equality.”

Taiwanese officials now have two years to make legal amendments to permit same-sex marriage, the court said.

After the court’s ruling, hundreds celebrated in the center of Taiwan’s capital, Taipei. They flew rainbow-colored flags and shouted in support of gay marriage.

Jamie, who did not want to give his last name, has been with his partner for 22 years. He said the ruling was an important moment for Taiwanese society.

“I am so touched. Finally we’ve reached this moment. This represents Taiwan’s human rights. This is a step forward in human rights,” he said.

Jay Lin is director of the Taiwan International Queer Film Festival, and a father of two. He said parents in same-sex relationships, in his words, “need this law even earlier, even faster.”

The ruling Democratic Party, which swept national elections last year, supports the change.

Legislators will now work on a bill to enforce the court’s ruling. Both the ruling and major opposition parties in the legislature support the legalization of same-sex marriage. So does President Tsai Ing-win, Taiwan’s first female leader.

Public opinion studies show a majority of Taiwanese support making same-sex marriage legal.

Gays and lesbians in Taiwan have formed an effective lobby in recent years. Tens of thousands of people attend Taiwan’s yearly Gay Pride parade.

Some conservative religious and social groups continue to push against gay rights. However, the influence of such groups is less strong than in the United States and other parts of the world.

Twenty-two of the world’s nearly 200 countries have legalized same-sex marriage. In Asia, Taiwan is the first government to legalize such unions, while South Africa is the only country in Africa to permit them.

More than 70 countries continue to criminalize homosexual acts.

I'm Ashley Thompson.

The Associated Press reported this story. Ashley Thompson adapted it for Learning English, with additional materials from Reuters. Caty Weaver was the editor.

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Words in This Story

rainbow -n. a curved line of different colors that sometimes appears in the sky when the sun shines through rain

shout - v. to say (something) very loudly

touched - adj. having emotional feelings because you are grateful or pleased by what someone has done or said

sweep - v. to win everything that can be won in (something, such as an election) in an easy or impressive way

lobby - n. an organized group of people who work together to influence government decisions that relate to a particular industry, issue, etc.

homosexual - adj. based on or showing a sexual attraction to people of the same sex

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