Once again, a nation’s top court has to clarify the meaning of equality.
On Wednesday, Taiwan’s high court decreed that same-sex marriage should be legalized because anything less is a breach of the country’s constitution, reminding the public and lawmakers that equal rights apply to all people.
The judges wrote in a press release that "disallowing two persons of the same sex to marry, for the sake of safeguarding basic ethical orders" represented a "different treatment" with "no rational basis” and that "such different treatment is incompatible with the spirit and meaning of the right to equality."
Now lawmakers have two years to make amend existing legislation or introduce new laws to ensure that same-sex couples can marry.
The country’s LGBT community wants the new mandate to be added to existing marriage laws so that couples can enjoy the full range of benefits that marriage allows — adoption, inheritance, medical privileges, and more. They fear new laws might limit the rights of same-sex marriages.
If two years pass and no legislative changes are made, then same-sex couples can just apply for a marriage license, the court’s rules.
Supporters say this ruling was a long time coming.
LGBT activists in Taiwan celebrate a court ruling in favor of same-sex marriage. It is the first of its kind in Asia. 🌈 pic.twitter.com/qWvX0QmEC0— AJ+ (@ajplus) May 24, 2017
Further, the president of the self-ruled state, Tsai Ing-wen, openly supports same-sex marriage.
Ultimately, this is a major breakthrough in a world that is overwhelmingly hostile to LGBT people.
There are 74 countries where homosexuality is essentially illegal and can lead to punishment. In 13 countries, it is punishable by death. In 17 countries, media or events positively showing LGBT communities or identities are considered propaganda. In 40 countries, the opposite of a hate crime is technically allowed — people can assault or murder a gay person and then claim they were provoked and therefore justified.
To the south of Taiwan in the South China Sea, Indonesia showed how cruel and oppressive some countries are to LGBT people earlier this week when two men were caned 74 times each for having consensual sex.
Taiwan is paving the way toward equality in the region, and it’s not looking back.
As an editorial in Taiwan News said following the same-sex marriage ruling:
“When the legislation passes and the first same-sex couple ties the knot, then Taiwan will truly become ‘Number One,’ at least in Asia, for expanding human rights and improving the lot of all its citizens.”