Flamboyant drag queens and horned devils rubbed shoulders with Christian pastors and supporters Saturday as tens of thousands of people took part in Taipei’s Gay Pride parade – the biggest in Asia – ahead of a landmark vote next month on LGBT rights on the island.
Taiwan’s top court last year legalised gay marriage, the first place in Asia to do so, and ruled its decision must be implemented within two years.
But there has been little progress towards bringing in the mandatory change since then, with President Tsai Ing-wen saying society is still divided.
Anti-gay rights campaigners have mounted a referendum against amending the civil code to allow same-sex couples to marry, which will take place alongside local elections in November.
In response, pro-LGBT campaigners have put forward their own referendum proposing that the code should be amended, which will also go to the vote next month.
They have also put forward a referendum calling for same-sex education in schools, a counterpoint to another anti-gay referendum opposing it.
Waving rainbow banners, placards and fans printed with slogans including “love is equal” and “vote for a happy future,” participants gathered at the square outside the presidential office for the start of the parade.
Organisers estimated a turnout of 137,000, including many overseas participants.
“We pray that the marriage equality will be realised in Taiwan soon and every country in Asia will follow as well,” said South Korean pastor Borah Lim, who was among a group of foreign Christian leaders who travelled to Taipei to support the event.
Last year’s court decision is binding on the government, but did not give specific guidance on how same-sex relationships should be legalised.
If the referendum put forward by the Coalition for the Happiness of our Next Generation is successful, it may require a separate law to be enacted for civil unions between same-sex couples
Referendum proposals in Taiwan are put to a public vote if they are supported by 1.5 per cent of the electorate – a little over 280,000 signatures.
If more than 25 per cent of around 19.79 million eligible voters across the island vote in favour, and providing the “yes” votes surpass “no” votes, the government must draw up a bill that reflects the results – which then goes to a parliamentary vote.