Taiwan is set to become the first Asian country to legalize gay marriage after a panel of 14 grand justices ruled on Wednesday that laws prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying as unconstitutional.
The country’s top court gave the government two years to implement the changes, according to the decision which was released online.
The landmark case was brought to Taiwan’s constitutional court by gay rights activist Chi Chia-wei, who has fought to register a marriage with his male partner since 1986 and was imprisoned for doing so for five months.
According to the Hong Kong Free Press, the 59-year-old was joined in his current petition by the the Department of Civil Affairs of the Taipei government, which said it would respect the ruling regardless of what happens.
However, some campaigners fear that parliament may attempt to delay the process of amending the law.
Activists across the region hope the historic ruling will give rise to marriage equality in other countries around Asia, including South Korea, Japan and mainland China, AFP reported via ChannelNews Asia.
“It will be a barometer of human rights protection in the region as Asia follows the United States’ and Europe’s steps to recognize same-sex marriages,” lawyer Huang Di-ying said of the court’s decision.
President Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan’s first female leader is also onboard and supported the change of law when she said back in December, “All comrades have the right to marriage.”
During the Gay Pride celebration that month, President Tsai even posted a Facebook video to show her support on same-sex marriage, saying that all Taiwanese should have “the freedom to love and choose their own happiness.”
Still, not everyone is pro-gay marriage as thousands gathered to protest against legalizing same-sex unions.
“Family conflicts will increase and the whole definition of marriage will be changed,” said Andrew Chang, spokesman for the anti-gay marriage group Alliance of Religious Groups for the Love of Families Taiwan, according to Al Jazeera.
“Ancestral lineage and family structure will all be disrupted,” the spokesman added, and believed that having sex with a person of the same gender was “unnatural and harmful”.