After years of fierce debate, Taiwan celebrates the first same-sex weddings in Asia

Updated 4:28 AM EDT, Fri May 24, 2019
I-Hwa Cheng for CNN
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(CNN) —  

Beaming in the bright sunshine, Amber Wang took the hand of her new wife, Kristin Huang, on the steps of the Xinyi District office in Taipei, Friday, making history as one of the first same-sex couples to marry in Asia.

As of 10am, 166 same-sex couples had already registered their marriages across Taiwan, according to the island’s Interior Ministry.

But just kilometers away, in the city’s outer suburbs, emboldened opponents of marriage equality announced to the press that they would create a new political party to fight for a ban on same-sex marriage at the 2020 election.

Taiwan is an island bitterly divided over a moment which should have made it a shining light for LGBTQ rights in an increasingly repressive region.

Amber Wang and Kristin Huang at a party held in Taipei to celebrate the first same-sex weddings in Asia on Friday.
I-Hwa Cheng for CNN
Amber Wang and Kristin Huang at a party held in Taipei to celebrate the first same-sex weddings in Asia on Friday.

Across the island of 24 million people, the first gay and lesbian couples in Asia legally tied the knot, to tears and applause from their friends and family.

It followed two years of fierce debate after the island’s Constitutional Court ruled that the existing marriage law was unconstitutional, violating LGBTQ citizens’ human rights. The judges gave the island’s parliament two years to amend and enact new laws.

After months of stalling and acrimony, the laws finally passed on May 18, just one week before the deadline.

Still, there’s no indication that the majority of Taiwan’s population is happy to see Wang and Huang and others like them married. A referendum during the 2018 Taiwan local elections asking voters if they supported same-sex marriage failed by a large margin.

In total, 69% of voters said they wanted the marriage code restricted to between a man and a woman.

“Friday will be the darkest day in Taiwan’s judiciary history,” same-sex marriage opponent Stability of Power Alliance chiarman Sun Chi-Cheng said the day before the historic event.