The highest court in Taiwan has ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, setting the country on the course to become the first place in Asia to embrace marriage equality.
Taiwan’s parliament, the Legislative Yuan, must now amend the civil code to allow same-sex couples to marry or pass new laws.
A lawsuit before the constitutional court argued Taiwan’s Civil Code, which currently defines marriage as between a man and a woman, discriminated against gay couples. “Society recognizes gay people have the same needs,” activist Chi Chia-wei told the court. “They are normal people wanting to build normal relations and the law should include them.”
Advocates had been heartened by the election last year of president Tsai Ing-wen, who came out in support of marriage equality. Government representative Liao Yuan-hao argued legalizing gay unions would “not change the essence of marriage, but would solidify its values.”
Members of the country’s LGBT community are hoping legislators will just update current civil codes, which would put gay couples on equal footing as heterosexuals. A new law could recognize unions between same-sex partners but be limited in scope.
The 14-judge panel gave the government two years to implement its ruling, or else same-sex couples could simply start registering to marry.
Opponents claim the issue should be put on a public referendum. In Tapei demonstrations on both sides have drawn thousands.