Taiwan's Top Court Rules in Favor of Same-Sex Marriage

Taiwan same-sex marriage supporters
Supporters of same-sex marriage wave rainbow Taiwanese flags in Taipei on May 24 following a ruling by the island's Constitutional Court in favor of same-sex marriage. (Image credit: Chiang Ying-ying/AP)

A ruling by Taiwan's Constitutional Court this morning paves the way for the island to become the first place in Asia to approve same-sex unions.

The Constitutional Court, Taiwan's top court, decided today (May 24) that an article of Taiwan's Civil Code violated the constitution because it stated that only a man and a woman could marry. The judges' ruling gives the parliament two years to amend or enforce the new law, according to CNN.

The case is a hard-fought victory for Taiwan's LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community, which has spent decades campaigning for equal rights and has organized large protests during the past several months to raise awareness about the cause, CNN reported. [10 Milestones in Gay Rights History]

Barring any anti-same-sex marriage legislation, the court's decision means that same-sex couples will be able to wed in May 2019, even if Taiwanese lawmakers do not pass a bill that allows same-sex marriage in the coming two years, Yu Mei-nu, a Taiwanese legislator, told CNN.

While same-sex marriage has gained support throughout the globe since the early 2000s, Asian countries have not jumped on board. Gay people are arrested and beaten in Indonesia, gay sex is criminalized in Singapore and LGBT groups face crackdowns in mainland China, according to The Washington Post.

Meanwhile, some gay armed-service members are facing criminal investigations in South Korea, and gay marriage is not recognized in Japan except in a few cities and wards, according to CNN.

Other places with anti-LGBT laws include many predominantly Muslim countries; former Soviet and Eastern Bloc countries; and sub-Saharan African countries, Live Science reported previously.

Given the laws and practices of its neighboring Asian countries, Taiwan has become a beacon for LGBT rights, especially considering today's court decision. While LGBT people still face stigma and discrimination in Taiwan, the island's school textbooks promote equality; gay and lesbian soldiers serve openly in the military; and Taipei has a well-known, annual gay pride parade, The Washington Post reported.

Taiwan's acceptance of LGBT groups may result from its vast cultural influences, which include indigenous groups, folk practices, and Dutch and Japanese colonizers, The Washington Post said. Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan's first female president, also showed her support for same-sex marriagebefore being elected in 2016, CNN reported.

However, religious groups in Taiwan have opposed the same-sex marriage case, saying that same-sex unions can threaten children and families. This view contradicts studies showing that same-sex marriage may reduce teen suicide attemptsand that there are no known differences between children raised in homes with two heterosexual parents and children raised by lesbian parents.

Original article on Live Science.

Laura Geggel

Laura is the archaeology and Life's Little Mysteries editor at Live Science. She also reports on general science, including paleontology. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Scholastic, Popular Science and Spectrum, a site on autism research. She has won multiple awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association for her reporting at a weekly newspaper near Seattle. Laura holds a bachelor's degree in English literature and psychology from Washington University in St. Louis and a master's degree in science writing from NYU.