Hundreds of same-sex couples in Taiwan got married on Friday, the day the country’s new law legalizing the unions went into effect.
The move to legalize same-sex marriage, a first in Asia, came after two decades of LGBT rights activists advocating for the cause.
Last week lawmakers in Taiwan, pressured by LGBT groups as well as by church organizations opposed to the move, ultimately voted to legalize same-sex marriage and almost immediately gay couples in Taiwan planned a mass wedding registration. A household registration office in central Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, was reportedly packed Friday as couples seized the earliest opportunity to get married.
On Friday, 500 same-sex couples registered their marriages across the island, according to Taiwan’s Ministry of the Interior.
The new law also gives same-sex couples many of the tax, insurance and child custody benefits available to male-female married couples.
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, a supporter of the law, tweeted on the day legislators approved the bill recognizing same-sex marriages writing, “On May 17th, 2019 in Taiwan, LoveWon. We took a big step toward true equality, and made Taiwan a better country.”
Thousands of people, including same-sex couples, demonstrated last Friday morning outside parliament before the vote. The same morning, about 50 opponents sat under a tent outside parliament and gave speeches favoring marriage between only men and women.
In May 2017, Taiwan’s Constitutional Court said the constitution allows same-sex marriages and gave parliament two years to adjust laws accordingly. The court order mobilized LGBT advocacy groups pushing for fair treatment, as well as opponents among church groups and supporters of traditional Chinese family values that stress the importance of producing offspring.
Same-sex marriage is not legal in mainland China and depictions of same-sex relationships are regularly censored on Chinese TV and social media.
Momentum toward same-sex marriage in many other Asian countries including Japan has been slowed by religion and political systems that discourage LGBT activism. Thailand, however, is exploring the legalization of same-sex civil partnerships.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.