Taiwan’s parliament has become the first in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage following a vote on Friday.
In 2017, the island’s constitutional court ruled that same-sex couples had the right to legally marry.
Parliament was given a two-year deadline and was required to pass the changes by 24 May, reports BBC.
Lawmakers debated three different bills to legalize same-sex unions – the government’s bill – the most progressive of the three was passed.
Hundreds of gay rights supporters gathered in the rain outside the parliament building in the capital, Taipei, to await the landmark ruling. There were shouts of joy and some tearful embraces as the result was announced.
The two other bills, submitted by conservative lawmakers, refer to partnerships as “same-sex family relationships” or “same-sex unions” rather than “marriages”.
But the government’s bill, also the only one to offer limited adoption rights, was passed by 66 to 27 votes – backed by lawmakers from the majority Democratic Progressive Party.
It will take effect after Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen passes it into law. Several same-sex activists had said ahead of the vote that this was the only version they would accept.
“The [government]’s bill is already our bottom line, we won’t accept any more compromise,” Jennifer Lu, the chief co-ordinator of rights group Marriage Equality Coalition Taiwan told reporters.
In 2017, Taiwan’s constitutional court ruled that same-sex couples had the right to legally marry. It said then that the island had two years to make necessary changes to the law.
But this was met with a public backlash, which pressured the government into holding a series of referendums.
The referendum results showed that a majority of voters in Taiwan rejected legalizing same-sex marriage, saying that the definition of marriage was the union of a man and woman.
As a result, Taiwan said it would not alter its existing definition of marriage in civil law, and instead would enact a special law for same-sex marriage.
Many took to social media in celebration, seeing the result as a win for marriage equality.
“What a tremendous victory for LGBT rights!” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
“Taiwan’s action today should sound a clarion call, kicking off a larger movement across Asia to ensure equality for LGBT people.”
Earlier on Friday, Ms Tsai said in a tweet that the island had taken “a big step towards true equality” with the vote.
However, conservative opponents were angered by the vote.
Tseng Hsien-ying, from the Coalition for the Happiness of Our Next Generation, told reporters the vote had “trampled on Taiwanese people’s expectations that a marriage and a family is formed by a man and a woman, a husband and a wife”.