Nearly 10,000 people took to the streets yesterday to oppose moves by Taiwanese legislators to nudge the island closer to becoming the first territory in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage.
Protesters mostly dressed in white gathered outside the Legislative Yuan from 7am as a parliamentary committee hunkered down inside to review two amendments to the Civil Code that seek to legalise same-sex marriage and allow gay married couples to adopt children.
The Bill passed through the first of three hearings last week. A draft of the amended Bill is expected to reach the legislature by next month and could have a third hearing by February.
Unhappy with what they dubbed "the hasty legislative process", protesters have called for a referendum and public consultations on the issue. In response, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said yesterday there would be two public consultations.
If the Bill goes through, Taiwan will join 22 countries, including the US, which have legalised same-sex marriage in the past 15 years.
During the 11-hour protest organised by a group called the Happiness of the Next Generation Alliance, demonstrators sang, chanted slogans and held up signs with slogans such as "Marriage, Family, Let the People Decide".
"We are not preventing same-sex couples from getting equal rights... There should be a consensus among the population, not just among special-interest groups to appease the minority," said Mr Lai Yung-bin, 46, a father of two from Taichung in central Taiwan.
Also present outside the Legislative Yuan were about 50 gay marriage supporters carrying rainbow flags. "We are no longer in the Dark Ages and should be given the same rights as heterosexual couples," said accountant Steven Hsin, 31, who hopes to marry his partner of four years next year.
During yesterday's parliamentary hearing, a scuffle broke out between legislators from the DPP, which is pro-gay rights, and the opposition Kuomintang.
About eight in 10 Taiwanese aged between 20 and 29 support same- sex marriage, Associated Press quoted Taiwan LGBT Family Rights Advocacy spokesman Tseng Yen-jung as saying, citing local university studies.
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Protesters gather outside the Legislative Yuan. http://str.sg/4Mpq