British Columbia

Taiwanese-Canadians celebrate landmark same-sex marriage ruling

Taiwan's Constitutional Court has found the law barring same-sex marriage unconstitutional, paving the way for the country to be the first in Asia to legalize same-sex unions.

Taiwan's Constitutional Court has ruled unconstitutional a law barring same-sex marriage

Same-sex marriage supporters wave rainbow Taiwanese flags after the Constitutional Court ruled in favour of same-sex marriage outside the Legislative Yuan in Taipei, Taiwan, Wednesday, May 24, 2017. (Chiang Ying-ying/Associate Press)

Taiwanese-Canadians are celebrating a landmark ruling from the island nation's constitutional court in favour of same-sex marriage.

On May 24, the court ruled a provision in Taiwan's civil code barring same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, and violated citizen's rights to human dignity and equality under the law.

The government has two years to change its legislation, failing which same-sex couples can have their marriages recognized by submitting a written document.

The news was met with joy in the streets of Taiwan's capital, Taipei, where hundreds of gay marriage supporters had gathered in anticipation of the ruling.

Jen Sungshine, a queer educator and member of the local Taiwanese LGBTQ community in Vancouver, was also watching closely.

"I'm thrilled," she said. "I mean as a Taiwanese queer woman, I couldn't be more excited to hear this news."

Listen to the interview with Jen Sungshine on CBC's The Early Edition:

The LGBTQ community in Taiwan has fought for same-sex marriage for years.

A bill to enforce the ruling is making its way through the legislature, where both the ruling and major opposition parties support legalization of same-sex marriage.

Surveys show a majority of the public is also in favour, as is President Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan's first female leader.

Precedent for other countries

Sungshine says the ruling — the first by an Asian country — could set a precedent for other countries.

Nearly 21 countries, including Canada, have legalized same-sex marriage. More than 70 countries continue to criminalize homosexual activity.

"This sets social and political pressure around the world, especially because in the next two years people from all over the world will be looking very closely at who's going to be reacting this, as well as where there's going to be pushback and where there's going to be support," she said.

Taiwanese-Canadian and queer educator Jen Sungshine says Taiwan's same-sex marriage ruling could have a precedent-setting effect on the rest of Asia. (University of British Columbia Museum of Anthropology)

'Very moving'

Tom Hsu, a Taiwanese-Canadian artist based in Vancouver, says the ruling could have an impact in normalizing same-sex relationships in mainstream Taiwanese society.

On a personal level, Hsu said talking to his family about his sexuality has been difficult and coming out was a challenge.

"The ruling was definitely very moving. I think [my parents] were always afraid of what it is to be normal. Having this pass ... lets people be familiar with what being gay is about," he said.

"Some people need that extra reassurance that it's OK."

With files from The Associated Press