Court ruling paves way for Taiwan to become first country in Asia to legalise gay marriage
The constitutional court said if parliament does not make the change within two years, same-sex couples could register to marry regardless, based on its interpretation.world Updated: May 25, 2017 00:29 IST
Taiwan’s top court ruled in favour of gay marriage on Wednesday, a landmark decision that paves the way for the island to become the first place in Asia to legalise same-sex unions.
Crowds of supporters cheered, hugged and wept as the court said current laws preventing the practice “violated” the Constitution’s guarantees of freedom of marriage and equality.
It gave the government two years to implement the ruling.
Momentum has been growing behind the push for equal marriage rights, with Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-wen openly supporting the campaign.
But there has also been anger among conservative groups, who have staged mass rallies against any change in the law.
The constitutional court said if parliament does not make the change within two years, same-sex couples could register to marry regardless, based on its interpretation.
Currently Taiwan’s Civil Code stipulates an agreement to marry can only be made between a man and a woman.
“The current provisions of the marriage chapter do not allow two persons of the same sex to create a permanent union of an intimate and exclusive nature for the committed purpose of managing a life together. This is obviously a gross legislative flaw,” the court said in a statement.
The decision to allow gay marriage would bolster social stability and protect “human dignity” it added.
Hundreds of gay marriage supporters gathered outside parliament in central Taipei erupted at the news, some breaking down in tears.
President Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party, which holds a majority in parliament, backed the ruling.
“The party is happy to see and affirm the results of the grand justices’ constitutional interpretation to guarantee and legalise same-sex marriage,” it said in a statement.
However, some campaigners fear opposing voices in parliament may try to delay the process of changing the law.
A panel of 14 grand justices made the ruling -- a majority of 10 was needed. Only two judges dissented.
The court said the physical and psychological need for permanent unions was “equally essential to homosexuals and heterosexuals, given the importance of the freedom of marriage to the sound development of personality and safeguarding of human dignity”.
It also pointed out that attempts in parliament to legalise gay marriage have stalled in the past 10 years, affecting people’s fundamental rights.