After the state of New York legalized marriage equality in June, I suspected that other states and countries would soon follow suit. Not much has happened in the last two months, but now things may be starting to change.
Later this month, Taipei City, Taiwan will host a mass wedding of approximately 60 lesbian couples. The ceremony will include couples from Taiwan, Thailand, China and the United States. The nuptials are, in part, inspired by those that have recently taken place in New York:
“We are celebrating the recent legalisation of gay marriage in New York and we hope that Taiwan will make the same move in the near future,” [organizer AJ Wang] said.
“We also want the public to see that so many gay couples are committed to each other and they deserve to be recognised and treated fairly.”
Although marriage equality is not currently legal there, Taiwan is one of the most LGBT-friendly countries in all of Asia. In 2003, the Gender Equity Education Act was passed, protecting LGBT students from discrimination in schools. In 2007, a law banning employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation was passed. And beginning this year, Taiwanese school textbooks will include material about LGBT rights. Taiwan is also notable for being the first Chinese-speaking country to host an LGBT Pride parade. Last year’s parade was attended by 30,000 people, making it one of the biggest Pride events in all of Asia.
Given the nation’s progressive stance on LGBT rights and general acceptance of the LGBT community, it would not be surprising if this upcoming mass wedding leads to the legalization of marriage equality in Taiwan. President Ma Ying-jeou has a reputation of supporting LGBT equality, tracing all the way back to his tenure as Mayor of Taipei. (President Ma’s acceptance of LGBT people is particularly interesting in light of rumors about his own sexuality, but such rumors are unsubstantiated and should not be presumed to be true.) A bill that would legalize same-sex marriage and adoption by same-sex parents was drafted in 2003, but it has yet to be reviewed by Parliament, and while President Ma has expressed his personal support for the legislation, he has stated that public consensus on LGBT rights is necessary before it can be considered.
In 2006, a poll revealed that 75% of Taiwanese people accept homosexuality. Unfortunately, marriage equality can be more complicated than that — plenty of people, including President Obama, support LGBT rights but are uncomfortable extending the definition of “marriage” to include same-sex couples. But perhaps this mass wedding is what is needed to convince the Taiwanese public — as well as the Parliament — to support marriage equality. The dozens of couples who will profess their love as part of the mass wedding will put a face on the issue, allowing people who don’t often think about marriage equality to seriously consider the inequalities of the current marriage laws. This mass wedding may lead to significant progress for LGBT people in Taiwan, which may even lead to more advances for LGBT people throughout Asia.
Could mass weddings soon become a successful form of marriage equality activism throughout the world? What are your thoughts on this form of protest?