Conflict & Justice

Taiwan's first same-sex Buddhist wedding: The shape of things to come?


Huang Mei-yu (L) and her partner You Ya-ting smiling during their same-sex Buddhist wedding ceremony. A Buddhist cleric’s decision to wed two women in Taiwan is the latest sign that obstacles to same-sex unions are quietly coming down in Asia, with religion posing less of a hindrance than in the west.



Buddhism has no particular dogma prohibiting same-sex unions, and on Saturday in the north of Taiwan, two women were married in a Buddhist ceremony, the first of its kind in the country. 

No country in Asia has specifically legalized marriage equality, however, Taiwan is among those countries (along with Vietnam and Nepal) that have a progressive stance on the issue, and legislation supporting same-sex marriage has been pending since 2003, according to the International Business Times. 

Known as “The Basic Human Rights Law,” the bill would be Asia's first to legalize marriage equality if it ever passes. 

The two women married in the weekend ceremony, Huang Mei-yu and Yu Ya-ting, have been together for seven years, and were happily joined by a female Buddhist master and activist, Shih Chao-hui, to little fanfare.

More from GlobalPost: Taiwan gays prouder than ever

“I think this is their human right. They can choose freely to get married and we should respect them,” said Chih Chun, a Buddhist nun who attended the ceremony, to the Jakarta Globe. “It makes no difference if couples are heterosexual or homosexual, as long as they are in love and they are happy.”

Same-sex marriage and LGBT rights aren't new to Taiwan.

In August 2011, a mass ceremony hosted by Lez's Meeting Magazine unofficially "married" 80 lesbian couples in downtown Taipei, during a "wedding party" that although technically illegal, wasn't disturbed by police. Taiwan is also home to Asia's largest pride parade, which has happened annually since November 2003. 

“Politicians say they respect same-sex unions and take it seriously as a human rights issue, but we don’t see them take any actions,” said Editor in Chief of the magazine, Chen Pin-ying, to the Taipei Times after the party, noting that legalizing marriage equality is an issue that's probably not high on the list of governmental priorities at the moment. 

More from GlobalPost: Same-sex marriage under consideration in Vietnam

According to CNN, current Taiwanese president Ma Ying-Jeou said in 2006 while he was mayor of Taipei that "gay rights are part of human rights," but that "since taking office in 2008, he has been mostly silent on the issue."

In Vietnam, marriage equality is within reach, and in a surprising move, the Communist country's Justice Ministry announced it was considering including same-sex marriage when the marriage laws get rewritten next year, reported USA Today. Hanoi also hosted its first pride parade this month.

Similarly, in Nepal, a government committee is considering proposing legalizing same-sex marriage in a new constitution that will be written later this year. 

Myanmar and Laos also held pride events this year. 

For more of GlobalPost's coverage of LGBT rights around the world, check out our Special Report "The Rainbow Struggle: A Global Battle over Gay Rights.