TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Thousands of supporters of same-sex marriage gathered in front of the Presidential Office Building in Taipei Saturday afternoon for a music festival where scores of celebrities pledged their support to marriage equality.
The same location was occupied by opponents of gay marriage just one week earlier. As the Legislative Yuan has marked December 26 as the next date to discuss several proposals which could make Taiwan the first Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage tension has been rising.
The activists chose December 10 for the Ketagalan Boulevard music festival because it is International Human Rights Day.
The event had aimed at 100,000 attendants, but by 3:30, the figure reached 200,000 and half an hour later, almost 250,000 people had crowded into the site, with organizers encouraging people to sit down as far back as nearby Renai Road and Xinyi Road.
While the supporters of same-sex marriage have organized mass rallies and marches several times before, Saturday’s event was its first music festival.
Hong Kong’s Denise Ho and local stars Sandee Chan, Freya Lim and Ailing Tai were present, and up to one hundred singers, including pop divas Jolin Tsai and Elva Hsiao, had recorded a message of support which was broadcast at the event.
Around 5:30 p.m., the weather changed and a light drizzle started, but most people still stayed and produced umbrellas, reports said.
Apart from celebrities, gay couples with their children and parents of gay people also appeared on stage to share their experiences. “We are people, we have love,” lasers beamed on the Presidential Office Building near the close of the event.
President Tsai Ing-wen supported marriage equality and said gays also had the right to get married, her spokesman Alex Huang told a news conference. He added that the Presidential Office hoped for less confrontation and accusations, and for more communication and tolerance.
The confrontation between supporters and opponents of same-sex marriage recently evolved into a dispute about whether existing laws should be amended or a new law designed specifically for same-sex marriage. The gay rights campaigners say the latter would be a sign of discrimination, putting same-sex marriage on a different and lower level than heterosexual marriages.
If civil laws are not amended, discrimination will not stop, the organizers of the music festival said, adding the issue should not be a confrontation between gays and religions, but a move to treat all people equally.
A decision by the Taichung City Government to fly the gay rights movement’s rainbow flag Saturday was condemned by opponents, who said it broke the government’s supposed impartiality.
In a bus on the road to Saturday’s event from Miaoli County Saturday, a fight reportedly broke out between the driver and a passenger. The driver reportedly attacked the passenger, a gay man, with a pair of scissors. They filed a complaint against each other after arriving in Taipei, reports said.