It’s been a month since that historic rainy Wednesday afternoon, when the definition of marriage was completely redefined in Taiwan. Yes, that was the day when a group of 14 grand justices in Taiwan made marriage a universal right for all Taiwanese citizens, a landmark decision that made Taiwan the first country in Asia to achieve such feat. The moment when the lead justice announced the original ban on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional, cheers broke through the air outside the legislature as participants from the pro marriage equality camp hugged each other and broke down into tears of joy. That moment, at 03:05 pm on May 24, 2017 will forever be remembered as life-changing in this city.
Long dubbed as the “LGBTQ Capital” in Asia, we have seen the marriage equality movement sustained through three decades, since the day when the island nation was still under martial law. Even though it started out as a lonely battle by Mr. Chi Chia-Wei, he was later joined by the first group of LGBTQ activists in the mid-90s. As society continues to evolve and become more open, momentum also starts to gather for the movement. However, even as the number of participants at Taipei’s annual Pride Parade continues to rise, marriage equality somehow still remains an unfetchable dream in a country where traditional family value continues to be emphasized.
It only became a fulfillable goal when Tsai Ing-Wen openly showed support for marriage equality in 2015, but as we thought we were inching towards universal equality, legislative setback and the aggressive confrontation from opposition groups made us doubt if what was promised to us would happen in time. Thankfully, the judicial branch of the Taiwanese government recognizes the need to uphold the island nation’s commitment to human rights, and sets a definite timeline for the legislature to complete its part.
While the ruling didn’t come as a total surprise, it was definitely something that Taiwan needs in order to maintain international visibility and remain relevant to the world. And to the people in Taiwan, it is an important reminder of the unique strength and value that the island possesses, the power to respect basic human rights while ensuring the fulfillment of equality. Even if the path ahead is patchy and rough, we always have something as special as this to help us pull through, in a uniquely Taiwanese way.