Taiwan’s military includes same-sex couples in wedding for first time

The couples on their wedding day
The couples are the first to take part in a mass military wedding

Two lesbian couples have become the first to take part in a mass military wedding in Taiwan, the only place in Asia to have legalized gay marriage. Taiwan’s army holds mass weddings every year, but this was the first time same-sex couples have taken part in one, one of the couples involved said she hoped it would inspire “more LGBT people in the military to stand up”.

Some 4,000 couples have married since Taiwan legalized same-sex marriage last year, our military is very open-minded, Chen Ying-xuan, an army lieutenant who married Lee Ying-ying, told news agency the Associated Press (AP). In matters of love, everyone will be treated equally, she said, adding that she had always open about her sexual orientation. Major Wang Yi and her wife Meng You-mei wed carrying a pride flag each throughout the ceremony.

Couple Yi Wang (R) and Yumi Meng (L) react during a military mass wedding in Taoyuan, Taiwan, 30 October 2020
Wang Yi (right) and Meng You-mei pose for the cameras

Ms Meng’s parents did not come to the celebration, but both Ms Wang’s parents and her teacher came in support of the couple. I really feel this is a huge breakthrough for the military, Ms Wang’s mother told AP, perhaps for heterosexual couples, it’s just a piece of paper, but its very important for gay couples. Taiwan’s army said including same-sex couples in this year’s ceremony reflected it’s “enlightened and progressive” attitude. It added that it gave each couple, regardless of their sexual preference their blessing. Last year, three homosexual couples had registered to take part in the military’s annual weddings, however, they eventually backed out due to “social pressure”, according to local news outlets quoting military sources.

Couples line up to get married
A total of 188 couples took part in the ceremony

Taiwan legalized same-sex marriage last year, though gay couples still do not enjoy equal rights as heterosexual couples, in 2017, Taiwan’s constitutional court ruled the same-sex couples had the right to legally marry, but this was met with public backlash, with a majority of voters rejecting legalising same-sex marriage, as a result, Taiwan said it would not alter its existing definition of marriage in civil law and instead enact a special law for same-sex marriage.

It means same-sex couples face a few restrictions, including only being able to marry foreigners from countries where gay marriage is also recognized, they are also only allowed to adopt each other’s biological children. Taiwan has long been a leader for gay rights in Asia, holding an annual gay pride parade in the capital Taipei. Elsewhere in Asia, laws are changing to reflect more tolerant attitudes towards LGBT groups. In 2018, India’s Supreme Court ruled that gay sex was no longer a criminal offence.

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