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Government officials joined in the jubilant First In Asia Wedding Party as Taiwan made history as the first country in Asia to register same-sex marriages.
As Household registration offices opened their doors on Friday morning same-sex couples across Taiwan flocked to register their marriages – the first time that this has been possible in Asia following the passing of the law legalizing same-sex marriage on May 17th.
Over in Xinyi Household Registration office under the shadow of the Taipei 101, 20 couples who had preregistered were the first in line with the Marriage Equality Coalition Taiwan marking the occasion by throwing a First in Asia Wedding Party later in the morning in association with Taipei City government. The date is the second anniversary of the court ruling which opened the way for the legislation that was passed last Friday allowing same-sex marriages to be registered.
The first couple to be registered in Xinyi was Marc(小銘) & Shane(小玄) and the registration office was swamped with media from all over the world eager to capture the moment. The couple gamely posed for the cameras as each stage was completed, from getting their marriage certificate to their new IDs being issued. Marc and Shane met in their PE class during college and have been together for 12 years then. At the beginning of 2018, after a successful marriage proposal at a Tanya Chua’s concert, they started to share their happiness on social media. After registering their marriage today, they plan to hold a wedding ceremony next month.
Shortly after the first few marriages were registered some of the newly-weds gave a press conference speaking movingly of their journeys to this day and the pride that they felt in Taiwan for making this day possible. Marc and Shane said that marriage means accompanying and being there for each other as they grow old together. Novelist Chen Xu(陳雪) pointed out “marriage is a union between two lovers. It is a free, independent and voluntary choice. Instead of being a binding institution, marriage is based on mutual consent and its beginning and conclusion cannot be forced. They only come from free will.”
Ya-Ting(雅婷) and Mei-Yu(美瑜), who held Taiwan’s first Taiwan Buddhist wedding presided by Shih Chao-hwei - a highly respected Buddhist social activist - in 2012 said that the long-awaited day had finally come and their parents had agreed to sign as witnesses on the certificate. They spoke of the relationships they had built with each other’s family over the past 7 years, but the worry they had felt about not being able to be there for each other during crisis or emergency. Today, they could finally register as a married couple and were relieved of these concerns.
Shaffer Lin(林劭徽) and Junyi Chen(陳駿逸) were among the couples taking part in the registration and celebration this morning. “We are so excited. Around 20 friends have joined us today to celebrate. Our families know we are getting married today, and most of them are supportive. We are so happy. We have been together for 12 years and after six years we decided it was time to get married. And so we started to protest at the Pride parade. We made T-shirts stating how many years we had been together and that we wanted to get married, so it’s taken us six years to get to this day.”
The Xinyi office alone had 38 appointments booked for same-sex marriages today. Although many couples are expected to register over the next couple of weeks, as of the day the law passed, May 17th, 289 couples had made reservations to register their marriage today, according to Deputy Interior Minister Chen Tsung-yen(陳宗彥). The numbers swelled significantly over the past week and the ministry were unable to keep a tally due to pressure on staff in the Household registration offices as they rushed to prepare in just four working days.
Cindy Su(蘇珊), CEO of the Lobby Alliance for LGBT Human Rights was present this morning but planned to avoid the media scrum by choosing a quieter office. “I am going to bring my kids and my wife to register this afternoon along with my aunt and some other family members as well. It’s very meaningful and it will be great for our kids as witnesses to our signing. One day they can look back at the picture and see that they were there on that day.”
The Wedding Party in Xinyi Plaza took place under a blazing sun. The newly-weds entered one by one and posed for the cameras accompanied by indigenous singer Suming Rupi playing a moving tribute song live onstage. Representatives from the council and various de-facto embassies in Taiwan took to the stage to offer their congratulations to the newly-weds. The plaza was crowded with well-wishers, and of course, media eager to document the occasion.
Speaking to the News Lens after the ceremony Amber & Huan(歡歡) hosts of the popular YouTube channel BBDiary(逼逼日記) which has 48,000 subscribers, described the motivation for starting their channel to document their daily lives since the start of 2017, and the video they released last night.
“We shot the video on the day of legalization. In that video we talk about our life and the story of gay marriage. It has taken 30 years. Many gay people in Taiwan feel afraid [of coming out]. We hope that by [making this blog] we can help them feel braver. We want to encourage more people to come out because …. We need to let people know that we are here and we are excited, we have the chance to achieve our love and get married the same as other people so we want to encourage more people and support more people to be brave and to be themselves.”
The channel will release an English subtitled video talking about their wedding party last week at 9 p.m. this evening.
Jennifer Lu (呂欣潔), the chief coordinator of the Marriage Equality Coalition Taiwan also spoke to the News Lens after the ceremony. When asked if she had been surprised by the large media turnout she said “I didn’t expect that but it’s great that lots of people are focused on this issue and lots of people are interested in their love stories. These stories being sent out to the mainstream society will help more people to understand what a same-sex couple look like. So I think it’s great that we had so many media there today and also I hope that today although we spent some time to celebrate but very soon we will go back to work and try to fight for the true and real equality”
Amongst the well-wishers were Seth and Brad, an American couple visiting from San Francisco, who happened across the wedding party after spotting a someone carrying a rainbow flag.
“We’ve been planning this trip for a while and then we saw the news last week. We were actually coming here for a concert, and as it turns out a proposal. We got engaged yesterday on the way here. It was pretty inspirational to see that a country in Asia had [passed a same-sex marriage law], and we were like the day that we land is the day that it becomes legal! We’ve both lived in various countries around Asia so we find it so inspiring Taiwan is the first in Asia and we hope that it means it will be everywhere soon.”
Meanwhile in Kaohsiung News Lens contributing writer Michael Garber was following an international couple as part of his upcoming documentary "Our Path to Heaven(同婚天堂路)”. Speaking after accompanying the couple to the household registration office on Friday morning Garber said “The family registration office was packed with as many reporters as newly-weds. The atmosphere was electric, with no hint of the tension that permeated the last few weeks of the fight for gay marriage. But one Taiwan-Macau couple had their marriage registration postponed pending further guidance from the government, because the law doesn’t explicitly include people from countries which don’t recognize same-sex marriages.”
The couple Guzifer Leong(梁展輝) of Macau and his partner Shin were prepared for this outcome. Speaking to The News Lens the evening prior to registrations opening Leong said “I was at the Legislative Yuan when the law was being passed, and everyone was cheering and celebrating. I felt happy at that time, but when the lawmakers rejected the international gay marriage part of the bill, my emotions turned bipolar, all the local people kept celebrating, but couples like us, international gay couples, we kept silent. We were standing isolated from most people, and the feeling as the different worlds collided … they were happy and hopeful, and we were happy for their happiness, but disappointed.”
Undeterred they arranged for a registration appointment “We know the Legislature will not to solve our problems, and we can only ask for help from the administrative unit. We want to let the government know that there are some people in Taiwan who were rejected for Marriage freedom, that there are some cases without the protection of constitution, even if those cases involve a Taiwanese citizen.”
Commenting today Leong said that the Household registration staff were nice and that they received a document that noted their application is accepted pending processing once arrangements have been made by the relevant authorities to permit such marriages.
According to Mainland Affairs Department spokesman Qiu Chuizheng the process to establish same-sex marriage relations in Taiwan in accordance with the relevant regulations of the two sides of the strait is underway. In a press conference yesterday Chen Mingqi, deputy chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council, said that since the special law was passed last week, cross-strait marriage support can now be developed and the necessary administrative measures are under discussion. "There is no timetable, but I believe that it will not be abandoned," added Chen.
The plight of couples denied the right to marry today was not forgotten amid the celebrations in Taipei Jennifer Lu commented “Unfortunately, some foreigners could still not get married to their Taiwanese partners today. So, of course, we will keep on fighting and also we want to gather more stories like this to fight for their rights. Of course we will help them. We hope that in the near future everyone, not only Taiwanese couples, can get married and marriage equality can become the reality.”
Read Next: Marriage Equality: Love Wins, But Battles Remain
Editor: Lea Yang (@TheNewsLens)
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