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Taiwan Becomes First Asian Country To Legalise Same-Sex Marriage

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Taiwan Becomes First Asian Country To Legalise Same-Sex Marriage

For the first time, an Asian country has made a huge step forward in the fight for gay marriage. The constitutional court in Taiwan has ruled that same-sex couples now have the right to legally marry. This is the first such ruling to be handed down by an Asian country.

Taiwan's highest court, the Council of Grand Justices, said that barring gay couples from marrying violated 'the people's freedom of marriage' and 'the people's right to equality'.

"Sexual orientation is an immutable characteristic that is resistant to change," the court said in its ruling. "The freedom of marriage for two persons of the same sex, once legally recognised, will constitute the collective basis, together with opposite-sex marriage, for a stable society."

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The court allowed two years for legal amendments to allow same sex marriage, saying: "If relevant laws are not amended or enacted within the said two years, two persons of the same sex who intend to create the said permanent union shall be allowed to have their marriage registration effectuated"

Activists for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights had held high hopes of winning the court's backing after years of campaigning.

Taiwanese president, Tsai Ing-wen, openly supported the legalisation of same-sex marriage during her campaign. However, in the year since she came to power and amid low approval ratings, she declined to actively push to have the law amended.

President of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen
President of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen
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Image credit: PA

This had cost her support among younger members of her party and young people in general.

The ruling marks the first country in Asia, a largely conservative region, to have cleared the way for same-sex marriage. Taiwan is reputed to be the most liberal country within the region.

Taiwan's fight for same-sex marriage was partly galvanised by the death of a gay professor.

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The apparent suicide of Jacques Picoux, on 16 October 2016 became a rallying call against the failure of the government to make progress on changing the laws surrounding gay marriage.

Picoux, 67, who taught at the National Taiwan University, fell from the tenth floor of his Taipei apartment block. His friends believe it was suicide.

They cited the reason as depression after the death last of his partner of 35 years, Tseng Ching-chao.

Picoux had been distraught when his lack of legal status denied him the right to participate in crucial medical decisions leading up to Tseng's final moments in his battle with cancer. After his partner's death he found himself with no legal claim over the property they shared.

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In the same week as the Taiwanese court ruling, a South Korean military court convicted a soldier for having a same-sex relationship in what activists described as a "witch-hunt". Additionally, two men were caned in Indonesia for consensual gay sex.

Featured Image Credit: PA

Mel Ramsay
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