Taiwan’s Supreme Court today heard a landmark case that could help push the island-nation to become the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage.

Separate cases were brought by long time rights crusader Chi Chia-wei (祈家威) and the Taipei City government. Chi petitioned for the case to be heard when his attempt to register his marriage with his partner in 2013 was rejected. The Taipei City government presented a petition due to growing requests for same-sex marriage.

A panel of 14 grand justices heard a debate over whether a law in Taiwan’s civil code that states marriage is between a man and a woman is unconstitutional. The Supreme Court will announce a verdict within two months.

Both supporters and protesters gathered outside the court this morning, and today’s debate was streamed live.

The hearing comes after draft amendments to Taiwan's Civil Code which would legalize same-sex marriage on Dec. 26 passed a committee review in the Legislative Yuan, Taiwan's Parliament. The amendments will proceed to party caucus negotiations and still need to pass second and third readings before becoming law, but this process could be overtaken by the Supreme Court's ruling.

During the debate this morning, Chi said he has spent 41 years, six months and 24 days waiting for this day to come. In his brief statement, Chi said, “Gays are right. Why can’t people who are right do something that’s right?”

Chi’s attorney Victoria Hsu (許秀雯) says the Supreme Court willing to hear the case is already a “major breakthrough,” and no matter what the result is, it has already given importance to the same-sex marriage issue in Taiwan, reports United Daily News.

However, in a controversial move, Justice Minister Chiu Tai-san (邱太三) said the current code does not specifically bar same-sex unions, and therefore does not violate the constitution.

According to the Taipei City government, 316 same-sex couples have applied for household registrations since the rules were adopted in 2015. This recognition is not legally binding and does not constitute recognizing marriage between two individuals of the same sex.

Editor: Edward White