HONG KONG — Tens of thousands of protesters filled the streets of Taipei on Friday as lawmakers in Taiwan prepared to vote on legalizing same-sex marriage, a first for Asia.
The legislature is facing a deadline imposed by Taiwan’s constitutional court, which in 2017 struck down the Civil Code’s definition of marriage as exclusively between a man and woman. The court gave the government two years to revise the law, or same-sex couples would automatically be allowed to have their marriages registered by local authorities.
Taiwan has long been a leader of gay rights in Asia, and the annual gay pride parade in Taipei is a magnet for gays and lesbians from countries where discrimination and unequal treatment is far more entrenched. In one of the harshest examples in the region, Brunei this year put into effect new laws that authorized executions by stoning for gay sex and adultery, although the country’s leader said it would maintain a de facto moratorium on the death penalty.
President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan, who took office in 2016, has said she supports same-sex marriage, and her left-leaning Democratic Progressive Party, which took control of the legislature for the first time that year, also generally favors such legislation, which was expected to be voted on Friday.
But momentum for a same-sex marriage law had stalled as opponents, including some church and conservative groups, campaigned against the mandated changes. Voters overwhelmingly opposed same-sex marriage in referendums last year, and politicians have been slow to move forward out of fears of being punished in next year’s general election.
That left the government facing a May 24 deadline. Several gay couples have said they plan to get married on that day, regardless of whether the legislature acts.
Marriage equality advocates have criticized the proposal issued by Taiwan’s cabinet, the Executive Yuan, which would authorize same-sex marriage but limit adoption rights. But they have said they support it over two competing bills that use formulations of “union” and “familial relationship” instead of “marriage.”
“The Executive Yuan’s version is already what we see as the ‘compromise bill’ and there must be no more compromises,” said Jennifer Lu, chief coordinator of Marriage Equality Coalition Taiwan, the state-run Central News Agency reported.
Some lawmakers from the D.P.P. have said they would support one of the alternative bills, leaving it unclear which proposal could win the vote.