Taiwan made history on Friday with the first legal same-sex marriages in Asia, as same-sex couples tied the knot in jubilant and emotional scenes, the culmination of a three-decades struggle for equality.
The marriages, which came a week after the legislators took the unprecedented decision to legalize same-sex marriage, despite a fervent conservative opposition, place Taiwan at the forefront of the nascent gay rights movement in Asia.
Around a dozen couples were one of the first to arrive at a government office in downtown Taipei to legally register their relationships as a marriage.
Taiwan became the first country in Asia to hold more gay marriage ceremonies on Friday, a week after politicians voted to legalize it
Shane Lin (center) and his partner Marc Yuan (right) became Taiwan's first official gay marriage on Friday when marriage registration was opened
Dozens of couples came early to be one of the first to register their unions before they went to a party afterwards
Taiwanese legislators were given a two-year period to establish same-sex marriage after judges ruled it was legal, and that moment came to ceremonies today last week
Cynical Chick (left) and Li Ying-Chien pose on a giant rainbow flag carpet after being married in a registration office in Taipei
They embraced each other and kissed the assembled press before they proudly held their wedding certificates, as well as new identity cards that mentioned each other as spouses.
Among those who tied the knot were social worker Huang Mei-yu and her partner You Ya-ting.
They held a religious blessing led by a progressive Buddhist master in 2012, but demanded the same rights that were granted to heterosexuals.
& # 39; It's late, but I'm still happy to officially get married in this life, & # 39; Huang told AFP after signing her marriage certificate, with a bouquet and radiant.
Legal recognition of their love, she said, was a crucial step and could help others accept their relationship.
& # 39; Now that same-sex marriage is legally recognized, I think my parents finally feel it is real and no longer try to get me married (to a man) & # 39 ;, she said.
Despite jubilant scenes in Taipei on Friday, the decision has bitterly divided the island nation, with conservative groups vowing to punish the ruling party in next year's elections
A dozen couples got up early to register as married in Taipei, but around 300 marriages would take place across the country on Friday
Friday's weddings mark the culmination of a 30-year fight for equality, even when conservative groups threaten to reverse progress.
A gay couple is celebrating on a giant rainbow carpet outside the registration office in Taipei, where they just got married
A same-sex couple poses for photos at the foot of Taipei's 101 skyscraper after he was officially married
Shane Lin and Marc Yuan, a couple who fell in love with the university, were the first to register.
& # 39; It was not an easy journey and I am lucky to have the support of my other half, my family and friends, & # 39; Lin told the reporters in tears.
& # 39; Today I can say to so many people that we are gay and that we are getting married. I am really proud that my country is so progressive, & he added.
Taiwan made history last week, when it became the first place to legalize same-sex marriage in Asia, where 60 percent of the world's population lives.
But the problem has also caused deep divisions on an island that is sure to remain conservative, especially outside the cities and among the older generation.
According to local authorities, 300 same-sex couples are expected to enroll Friday around 150 in the capital, Taipei, which has a thriving and vocal gay community.
The town hall organized an outdoor wedding party at the foot of the famous skyscraper Taipei 101 with dignitaries from Canada, Spain and Great Britain, where speeches welcomed Taiwan into the handful of liberal democracies that have legalized same-sex marriage.
Two rainbow flag rugs and a podium are set up on the 101 skyscraper site while Taiwan prepares to celebrate same-sex marriage
Homosexual married couples and benefactors pose for the cameras in Taipei on Friday
A married couple is sharing a tender embrace for a & # 39; wish wall & # 39 ;, filled with dozens of rainbow cards with hope for the future
A rainbow flag is found on a desk at the registration desk while same-sex couples sign up for marriage in the Shinyi district in Taipei
For veteran gay rights activist Chi Chia-wei – dressed in a striking red suit with a rainbow headband – Friday's registrations were the culmination of a three-decades struggle, trying to convince successive governments to change the law.
It was Chi who eventually applied for a petition at the Constitutional Court of Taiwan, leading to a 2017 judgment that denying the right to gay mating was unconstitutional.
Faced with an impending deadline for the court, last Friday the parliament finally passed a bill that would allow same-sex couples to & # 39; exclusive permanent unions & # 39; and another clause that allows them to create a & # 39; marriage registration & # 39; can apply to government agencies.
& # 39; I am very happy that same-sex couples can finally register and be listed as each other's partners. I am honored to see Friday's wedding records, & he said to AFP.
In the last decade, Taiwan has become increasingly progressive in the area of gay rights, with Taipei as the host country of Asia's largest pride parade.
But the problem has polarized society.
Two same-sex couples seal their legal marriage with a kiss at the registration office in Xingyi District in Taipei
A couple of the same gender show their new ID cards that mention each other as spouses after they have officially registered their new union
A same-sex couple is showing their new ID cards during the first day of civil registration for same-sex marriage in Taipei
Same-sex couples stand in line to register during the first day of civil registration for same-sex marriage in Taipei
Conservative and religious groups mobilized after the court ruling and comfortably won a series of referenda last November in which voters completely rejected the defining marriage as something other than a union between a man and a woman.
Conservative lawmakers proposed rival bills that offered something closer to the same-sex limited unions, but those measures failed because the parliament approved the same-sex marriage law.
However, the new law still contains restrictions that heterosexual couples do not have.
Same-sex couples can currently only adopt the biological children of their partners and can only marry foreigners from countries where same-sex marriage is recognized.
Gay rights organizations say they are willing to accept partial equality for now, hoping to be able to fight later on on issues such as adoption, surrogacy and marrying foreigners.
Opponents have vowed to punish President Tsai Ing-wen and the legislators who supported the same-sex marriage law in the January elections, when Taiwanese will elect both a new president and a new parliament.
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