Taiwan parliament approves same-sex marriage

Taiwan's parliament has become the first in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage following a vote on Friday

Taiwan's parliament legalised same-sex marriage on Friday, in a landmark first for Asia as the government survived a last-minute attempt by conservatives to pass a watered-down version.

The island's lawmakers comfortably passed a law allowing same-sex couples to form "exclusive permanent unions" and a second clause that would let them apply for a "marriage registration" with government agencies.

The vote is a major victory for the island's LGBT community who have campaigned for years to have similar equal marriage rights as heterosexual couples and places the island at the vanguard of Asia's burgeoning gay rights movement.

In recent months conservatives had mobilised to rid the law of any reference to marriage, instead putting forward rival bills that offered something closer to limited same-sex unions. But those bills struggled to receive enough votes.

Hundreds of gay rights supporters gathered despite heavy rain near Taipei's parliament as a mammoth legislative debate got under way over an issue that has bitterly divided the island.

Taiwan's top court had ruled that not allowing same-sex couples to marry violates the constitution. Judges gave the government until May 24 this year to make the changes or see marriage equality enacted automatically. But they gave no guidance on how to do that.

With that deadline fast approaching, three bills were tabled for Friday's vote, which also happened to be the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.

The most progressive was the government's bill, the only one to use the word "marriage" and to offer limited adoption rights.

It was backed, begrudgingly, by gay rights groups who see it as the closest thing to full equality with heterosexual couples, despite its limitations.

Opponents tabled two other versions which avoid the word marriage, offering something closer to same-sex unions with no adoption rights.

Conservative and religious groups had been buoyed by a series of referendum wins in November, in which voters comprehensively rejected defining marriage as anything other than a union between a man and a woman.

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