By: Casey Tolan
Taiwan is on the verge of making history and becoming the first Asian country to allow same-sex marriage.
A legislative committee approved a marriage equality bill on Dec. 26, the first big victory in a process that will likely last at least until midyear. Supporters say they have the endorsement of a bipartisan group of almost half of parliament. Marriage equality also has the backing of President Tsai Ing-wen, who campaigned on the issue.
But polls show Taiwanese people are still closely divided on the issue. Some Christian and Buddhist groups have vocally opposed it and mobilized parents’ associations on social media, including apparent support from a controversial anti-gay group in Massachusetts. Massive street demonstrations on both sides have rolled through Taipei and other cities over the last few months.
Yu Mei-nu, the legislator who introduced the marriage equality bill, said in an interview at her offices in parliament that she was cautiously optimistic about its chances. Her most recent tallies show 54 of Taiwan’s 113 legislators backing marriage equality, she said, although “some of them are under pressure so they might flake.”
“We’re almost close to passing it,” she said. Advocates are rushing to get the bill — which also allows same-sex couples to adopt children — approved before the 2018 elections, when “every issue becomes politicized,” said Yu, who worked as a women’s rights lawyer before being elected.
Taiwan is seen as one of the most gay-friendly places in Asia; its annual pride parade is regarded as the largest in the continent.