The race towards being the first Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage or civil unions continues.
In Asia, there are currently no countries that have legalized same-sex marriage or civil unions. While Israel, Hong Kong, and Armenia recognize foreign marriages, they don’t license domestic ones. In fact, Armenia has a ban on domestic same-sex marriages.
Meanwhile, some cities in Japan, Taiwan, and Cambodia provide limited rights to same-sex couples, such as hospital visitations, which are being treated by citizens as city-based civil unions.
But again, no Asian country has yet to fully legalize country-wide same-sex marriage or civil unions. The two closest countries so far are Taiwan and Thailand.
While Taiwan’s highest court ruled that Article 972 of the Civil Code, which states that marriage is strictly between a man and a woman, was unconstitutional back in 2017, the law has yet to be updated.
This is mostly due to the court giving lawmakers until the start of 2019 to change the law. Unfortunately, politicians have yet to make that change.
On top of that, religious groups have heavily advocated for the banning of same-sex marriage in the country. This eventually led to the approval of a referendum (public vote) on the issue last week. The Central Election Commission has yet to set a date for the vote, but it will most likely happen in November.
While we all celebrated the fact that Taiwan would become the first country to legalize same-sex marriage, that title is now in potential danger.
If the majority of voters vote against marriage equality, Taiwan’s lawmakers could make an argument to keep the definition of marriage as it is. Keep in mind, this all would have to happen before 2019, or marriage equality will take effect anyway. (Though, the religious groups & politicians could reverse the law later).
Meanwhile, Thailand is getting closer to beating Taiwan in this race.
Back when Taiwan’s high court made the now famous court decision, Thailand’s politicians announce that they were working on a bill dubbed the Civil Partnership Act.
That bill has been in the works for almost a year now and is allegedly in its final stages. A final draft was presented back in July, and now is expected to be passed by February of next year, according to Nikkei Inc.’s Asian Review.
That said, the civil partnership will be limited. While same-sex couples will enjoy benefits and rights like inheritance rights, welfare benefits, hospital rights, and tax breaks, some rights are being purposefully left off like adoption rights.
With the way things are progressing in both Taiwan and Thailand, it looks like it will be a photo finish in the race towards gay partnerships. Will Taiwan’s religious groups shift the course before the law is automatically instated in 2019? Will Thailand legalize same-sex unions before Taiwan settles itself?
We’ll find out, at the latest, in January and February of this coming year.