Thousands of people gathered on the streets of Taipei to protest for and against a bill that could make Taiwan the first Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage.
More than 20,000 protesters marched through the city capital dressed in white, holding signs that pushed parliament to “stand forward for the next generation’s happiness.”
According to the Associated Press, most of the people in attendance were affiliated with conservative religious and social groups led by the Alliance of Taiwan Religious Groups for the Protection of Family demanding an island-wide vote with slogans such as “Marriage and family, let all the people decide.”
But backers of the bill, which is currently being deliberated by lawmakers, waved rainbow flags around and chanted their support for LGBT rights as a line of police separate them from the main group.
Members of the ruling and opposition parties, Taiwan’s President, Tsai Ing-wen, and a majority of the public have voiced their support for the legalization of same-sex marriage.
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which supports gay rights, drafted the historic bills in October to widespread acclaim across the nation, the Shanghaiist reported.
David Tseng, a spokesman for opponents of same-sex marriage, argued that marriage should be between a man and a woman.
“Now they want to amend the law to do away with the ‘father’ and ‘mother’ altogether,” Tseng said during the protests. “We are different from the West. In Eastern culture, we place great importance on filial piety to one’s father and mother. This is a virtue we must keep.”
Taiwan is one of Asia’s most progressive countries when it comes to marriage equality. But there is still a lot of work to be done to make it the law of the land, according to Jennifer Lu, a researcher at Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline Association, the oldest LGBT organization in the nation.
“We appreciate that legislators acknowledge the fact that LGBT families need this protection by the law,” she told the Hong Kong Free Press in an interview. “We also appreciate that some members of the legislature are working very hard to make things happen.”
“The protesters’ ideas come from their religion. They don’t discuss law or policy,” Lu went on. “So another public hearing is not necessary.”
“Taiwan could be the first country in Asia to have marriage equality law. That’s based on our democratic system, which we’re working very hard to protect,” she continued. “Sadly, some KMT legislators are using undemocratic means to try to block the process.”
If the bill is passed, Taiwan will join Canada, Colombia, Ireland, the U.S. and 16 other countries that have made same-sex marriage legal. But there are still places in Asia and the Middle East where gay sex is still prohibited.
In October, tens of thousands attended the annual Gay Pride march in Taipei to show their support for equal-rights marriage.