by Matthew Strong
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Thousands of supporters of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights marched through the streets of Taipei City Saturday in one of Asia’s largest such events.
Taiwan has often been named as the East Asian country most likely to see the legalization of same-sex marriage, but most recent proposals are unlikely to be approved because of the approaching January 16 presidential and legislative elections. The proposals will have to be submitted again to the new Legislative Yuan once it starts work.
While Taipei has hosted gay parades for 13 years, Saturday’s Taiwan LGBT Pride Parade was particularly large due to its combination with other events. A gay film festival and a choral festival were also taking place, while earlier in the week saw 300 activists from around Asia and beyond attend the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association Asia Conference.
On the eve of the march, representatives of the European Union jointly expressed their support for gay rights, with employees of their offices taking part in the event with multicolored EU flags.
There were two routes, but as usual for major marches, the event ended up on Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Office Building. In addition to private citizens, the event also featured representative groups from universities and high schools. A rainbow tree was constituted of colored paper leaves on which participants had written their thoughts and wishes.
Prominent politicians were rare, partly because there is no national consensus on the issue of same-sex marriage yet, leading some election candidates to fear their appearance might lose some votes as well as win some others, reports said.
Democratic Progressive Party presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen has expressed support for the gay community, and the opposition group’s headquarters had been lit up in the rainbow colors of the gay rights movement, but she said Saturday she had a busy agenda, implying she would not attend the Taipei march.
Many people in society supported gay marriage, but many other people were also more reserved, she told reporters. While resolving this issue, there should be no confrontation in society, but people should use a rational attitude to reach a consensus, according to Tsai.
According to an online opinion poll launched by the Ministry of Justice, 70,832 respondents or about 60 percent of the total approved of same-sex marriage, while 48,715 people opposed it. Activists said the poll results showed there was widespread support for gay marriage in Taiwan, so the government should immediately move toward allowing marriage between people of the same sex.