In this photo taken on Friday, Nov. 4, 2016, Cindy Su,
left, and Lana Yu hold their baby during an exclusive
interview with The Associated Press in Taipei, Taiwan.
Alongside its vibrant youth culture, gay and lesbian
causes have gone from scorn to acceptance in barely a
generation, to the point that parliament is now expected
to legalize same-sex marriage within months. “Now, if
something happens to the child, the other partner is
nothing but a stranger,” said Su, a 35-year-old software
engineer in Taipei. By contrast, either partner in a legally
recognized marriage could make legal, medical and
educational decisions, she says. (AP Photo/Chiang
Su Shan and her partner are raising 5-month-old twins
together, but only one of the women is their legal
parent. That could soon change as Taiwan appears set
to become the first place in Asia to legalize same-sex
“Now, if something happens to the child, the other
partner is nothing but a stranger,” said Su, a 35-year-old
software engineer in Taipei. By contrast, either partner in
a legally recognized marriage could make legal, medical
and educational decisions, she says.
Taiwanese lawmakers are currently working on three
bills in support of marriage equality, one of which is
already listed for review and could be passed within
months. Same-sex marriage also has the prominent
support of President Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan’s first female
head of state.
About 80 percent of Taiwanese between ages 20 and 29
support same-sex marriage, said Tseng Yen-jung,
spokeswoman for the group Taiwan LGBT Family Rights
Advocacy , citing local university studies. Taiwan’s
United Daily News found in a survey taken four years
ago that 55 percent of the public supported same-sex
marriage, with 37 percent opposed.
That’s seen as a reflection of Taiwan’s ready acceptance
of multi-party democracy and other inclusive attitudes,
as well as the fact that Taiwan’s 23 million people
largely follow Buddhism and traditional Chinese
religions that take no strong positions on sexual
orientation or gay marriage .
Gay and lesbian relationships began to find wide
acceptance in the 1990s, aided by the already well-
established feminist movement, said Jens Damm,
associate Professor in the Graduate Institute of Taiwan
Studies at Chang Jung University in Taiwan.
“The elite became in favor of a kind of gender equality,”
Still, same-sex marriage still had to overcome traditional
perceptions of gender roles and the strong pressure on
children to marry and have kids. The self-ruled island
also lacks many openly gay and lesbian celebrities to
lead the way; the writer and television talk show host
Kevin Tsai is among the few exceptions.
Taiwan would join Canada, Colombia, Ireland, the United
States and 16 other countries that have legalized same-
sex marriage over the past 15 years, according to the
Washington, D.C.-based LGBT rights advocacy group
Human Rights Campaign . But it would be a notable
exception among Asian and Middle Eastern countries, at
least 20 of which continue to ban same-sex intercourse.
“It’s a big step forward for the history of human rights,”
said Yu Mei-nu, a ruling Democratic Progressive Party
lawmaker who is sponsoring the same-sex marriage bill
now in line for parliamentary debate. “If Taiwan can get
this passed … it will give other Asian countries a
Taiwan’s Justice Ministry has not backed a specific bill,
but pledged on its website last month to maintain an
“attitude of openness” toward same-sex marriage.
President Tsai said as recently as October that she
supports same-sex marriage.
Domestic gays and lesbians have also formed an
effective lobby in recent years. An annual Gay Pride
march in Taipei last month drew tens of thousands of
people, many pushing for gay marriage. About 100
people have separately formed a group pushing for the
For Log Chen, a Tarot card fortune teller in Taipei,
legalized marriage would mean she and her partner of
three years could make future plans with more
“In case something happens to my partner, I will not be
left with nothing,” Chen, 32, said.
While practical issues such as sharing assets and
medical benefits are motivating factors, simple love and
respect are also a strong impetus, said Jay Lin, founder
and director of the Taiwan International Queer Film
“There are lots of people who have been loving and
committed to each other for decades and they’d like to
put a ring around their finger,” said the father of 4-
month-old twin boys, who said he would consider
marrying his partner.
Still, as legalization grows closer, opposition to same-
sex marriage is hardening among a small minority of
fundamentalist churches and conservative politicians.
That includes some members of the main opposition
Nationalist Party’s Central Standing Committee, party
spokesman Hu Wen-chi said.
During their time in power, the Nationalists stopped
earlier efforts to pass same-sex marriage bills, including
one introduced in 2013 that met opposition from
Christian groups that gathered signatures from about
Legalizing same-sex marriages would burden Taiwan’s
welfare system and be tough on children, said Chen
Chih-hung, chairman of the year-old political party Faith
And Hope League, which has no seats in parliament.
The death of a same-sex spouse would leave the
survivor dependent on government support as many
couples would not have children to support them in old
age, Chen said. Children of such couples would find it
difficult to socialize with children from more mainstream
families, he said, although that argument has been
refuted by many social scientists.:
Su, the software engineer, said she and her partner, also
35, find little sign of such concerns among the people
they meet. Most Taiwanese are highly accepting of their
relationship and their right to raise children, she says.
“We go to the market with our kids and people say ‘how
cute,'” she said. “When they find there are two mamas,
they feel intrigued. Maybe they have seen news about
this type of family but don’t have friends near them who
are doing it.”
In this photo taken on Friday, Nov. 4, 2016, Cindy Su,