Taiwan’s Ministry of the Interior has notified local governments that the 2019 same-sex marriage bill applies to transnational couples, excluding Taiwanese-mainland Chinese couples.

The news of the decision came after Premier Su Tseng-chang announced his resignation and a Cabinet reshuffle. The law is set to take effect in early 2024.

Taiwan became the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage four years ago. But the law initially was interpreted as prohibiting Taiwanese citizens from marrying a partner from a jurisdiction where same-sex marriage has not yet been legalized. Same-sex marriage is currently recognized in only 33 countries across the globe.

The legal basis for the prohibition is the Act Governing the Choice of Law in Civil Matters Involving Foreign Elements, which holds that “the formation of a marriage is governed by the national law of each party.”

Fan Yun, a lawmaker of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, said the decision showed Taiwan values human rights and is yet another big step to gender equality.

“Congratulations to all transnational same-sex couples!” said Taiwan Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership Rights (TAPCRR), a local NGO promoting LGBT rights, in a joint statement. “This year is really our last year when we have to spend New Year holidays separately.”

Since 2019, TAPCPR has represented five transnational same-sex couples, including a Taiwan-Macau couple, to push for extending marriage rights to all. The Taipei Administrative High Court ruled in favor of the organization in all five cases, deciding that prohibiting transnational same-sex couples from registering as married couples was illegal.

According to Article 8 of the Act, foreign laws should not be applied if doing so leads to the violation of “the public order or good morals.”

TAPCPR said it “felt sorry” that the reform to marriage policy doesn’t apply to Taiwanese-Chinese couples. “We understood those in the public sector had done their best,” the organization added. “We welcome all supporters [of marriage equality] to be there with cross-strait couples until they can marry like everyone else.”

Legalizing same-sex marriage between Taiwanese and Chinese citizens has long been a subject of debate because of tensions between the two countries.

In 2021, the Mainland Affairs Council, Taiwan’s China policy agency, said it planned to recognize same-sex marriage of Taiwanese-Chinese couples by amending the special law governing relations between citizens from the two sides, but added that the immigration agency would “keep a close eye” to forestall infiltration efforts by the Chinese Communist Party.

Miao Po-ya, Taipei City Councilor and LGBT-rights advocate, described having “a hundred mixed feelings” in a social media post on the announcement of the premier’s resignation and the transnational marriage law. But in the same statement she cites the political theorist Max Weber’s idea that “Politics is a strong and slow boring of hard boards,” indicating that activists view the law, despite the delay and the unresolved China issue, as progress.

READ NEXT: Groundbreaking Court Decision Expands Transnational Same-Sex Marriage in Taiwan

TNL Editor: Nicholas Haggerty (@thenewslensintl)

If you enjoyed this article and want to receive more story updates in your news feed, please be sure to follow our Facebook.