Taiwan’s Gay Marriage Ruling Is Important

 

A modified version of this story appeared on the Forbes Asia website in May 2017

I met him at a mall in Hong Kong. We had been exchanging emails for months before hand. I was nervous but hid it well since he would be too. We met and walked to the bus and then down to Stanley to take pictures and wander around the southern side of Hong Kong. It was our first date and we fell in love. It was four and a half years ago. Before meeting him, I never thought I would ever get married. In my home of Canada or other places it was possible but being Asia, it would never happen, or so I thought.

Yesterday the highest court in Taiwan, the Council of Grand Justices, ruled the country’s marriage laws violates its constitution.  The island nation will probably be the first in Asia to make same-sex marriage legal. It is a huge deal and has the chance to change all of Asia. It was something unthinkable when I arrived in Asia 15 years ago as an English Teacher in South Korea.

Coming to Seoul in 2003 and being gay was hard and an experience. The places to meet were limited to either a small area in the Western Expat area of Itaewon called Homo Hill or the bars around Jongno where there were no signs or any way of knowing there was a gay bar.

Living there for seven years and dating a lot, there were never any never thoughts of settling down and having a long-term relationship. The men were more focused on finding a wife to satisfy their mom’s wishes for grandchildren than finding another man to settle down. The country has changed a lot since I left with a growing acceptance of gay marriage and equality. At the same time finding someone to build a life with was limited.

On the day of the Taiwanese Court ruling:  in South Korea, a military captain was convicted and sentenced to six months in prison for having sex with his boyfriend while doing his mandatory military service. Amnesty International and others have called the trial a ‘witch hunt’ against the LGBTI community as all males must serve 2.5 years in the military. With this opposition, there is hope in the logic and understanding of the justice system.

It’s better here in Hong Kong, and there is potential for it to get even better thanks to people bringing about change like my friends and who are becoming my heroes. A week after arriving in Hong Kong I met Angus Leung, a local Immigration Officer. He and his partner, Scott Adams were married in April 2014. They sued the government for the right to have the same spousal benefits as their colleagues.  The High Court ruled in their favour, and the government has until September 1 to make the changes necessary.

The government is still trying to figure out if they should appeal the decision to the Court of Appeal and there were calls yesterday to do so from politicians and conservative groups who are against equal rights.

The opposition is strong, but there is hope for a better future.  I love where I am. I love my job. Most importantly I love who I am with. We have talked, jokingly, about getting married. Now it’s no longer a joke. Every day I get closer to marrying my love.