, TAIPEI, Nov 29 – A Taiwanese court is set to rule next month on a gay couple’s appeal against a government agency’s refusal to register their marriage, in what rights groups on Thursday called a “milestone” case.
Chen Ching-hsueh and his partner Kao Chih-wei filed a complaint with the Taipei High Administrative Court against a local household registration agency, which turned them away when they tried to register their marriage last year.
Chen told reporters before a hearing earlier Thursday that he hopes Taiwan will become the first society in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage, adding he will continue to fight for his rights.
Gay rights advocates believe the case will have major long-term significance. It comes as they are preparing to present a bill to parliament next year that would legalise same-sex marriage.
The registration agency has justified its refusal by saying marriage is an act between a man and a woman, according to Chen.
“Whether they win or lose this case will be a milestone in gay rights developments,” said Yeh Kuan-yu, a spokeswoman for Taiwan LGBT Family Rights Advocacy.
“Their victory will serve as a precedent for other couples who want to get married and even if they lose, their case can still generate a lot of discussions to help rights groups push for the legislation process.”
Taiwan is one of the most culturally liberal societies in East Asia, and gay and lesbian groups have been urging the government for years to make same-sex unions legal.
Aiming to raise awareness about the issue, some 80 lesbian couples last year took part in Taiwan’s biggest same-sex “wedding party”, attracting about 1,000 friends, relatives and curious onlookers.
In August two women tied the knot in the island’s first same-sex Buddhist “wedding”. The much-publicised event featured blessings from a well-known Buddhist master and 300 Buddhist guests.