Taiwan holds first joint wedding for gay and straight couples

Witnessed by 300 family members and friends, the three couples hope to remove the stigmatization of homosexuality

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The first joint wedding for gay and straight couples (By CNA)

Taiwan's first joint wedding ceremony for gay and heterosexual couples took place in Taipei Saturday (May 18), one day after same-sex marriage was made legal in the nation.

Taiwan made history as the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage Friday, when the country's Legislature cleared a bill that gives gay couples the right to get married.

The bill will take effect May 24 after President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) signs it into law.

Witnessed by 300 family members and friends, the three couples -- gay, lesbian and heterosexual -- tied the knot with the hope of removing the stigmatization of homosexuality and AIDS.

Amber and Huan-Huan (歡歡), the lesbian couple, walked down the aisle in white gowns, while the gay couple, Hsuan-Yu (宣佑) and A-To (阿拓), were dressed in suits and ties.

The only heterosexual couple at the wedding, Wu Shih-liang (吳士良) and Pan I-lin (潘怡琳) voiced their support for same-sex marriage, adding that the fight for marriage equality is everybody's business.

Taiwanese pioneering gay rights activist Chi Chia-wei (祁家威) and Jennifer Lu (呂欣潔), the chief coordinator of the civic group Marriage Equality Coalition Taiwan -- the driving force behind the push for marriage equality in the nation -- were among those who attended the wedding.

Recalling his three-decade-long fight for marriage equality, Chi said he first submitted a petition to legalize same-sex marriage to the Legislative Yuan 33 years ago but was rejected on the grounds that "homosexual people are a perverted minority."

Lu, whose application to obtain legal recognition as being married to her partner was rejected by the court last year, said people in the past had little knowledge of homosexuality and were often misled by false information distributed by anti-gay groups.

For example, she said, the existence of the social stigma around homosexuality and AIDS was caused by such false information.

With the passage of the same-sex marriage law, she said, people will realize that there is no difference between homosexual and heterosexual families.

People just want to be with the ones they love, Lu said.

While urging 187 countries that deny same-sex couples full marriage rights to take a step forward, Chi said, however, that the new bill is less than satisfactory, as it offers limited adoption rights to same-sex couples.

The veteran gay rights advocate said he will continue to address issues regarding adoption and transnational marriage rights to same- sex couples and to call for gender equality to be taught in schools.

The new law allows either partner in the marriage to adopt the biological children of the other. However, non-biological children who had been adopted by one partner before the marriage cannot be adopted by the other partner.

Under the law, even with the legalization of same-sex marriage in Taiwan, a Taiwanese national would not be able to enter into a legally recognized union with a partner from a country where gay marriage is not legal.

Chi Chia-wei (left) and Jennifer Lu (By CNA)

The three newlywed couples (By CNA)