Taiwan LGBT activists hold Valentine's Day marriage law protest

Activists during a protest to call on the Taiwan government to approve gay marriage with foreign partners outside the Executive Yuan in Taipei on Feb 14, 2022. PHOTO: AFP
Activists tied hundreds of yellow ribbons around the compound's metal gates - a reference to the 1973 hit song "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree". PHOTO: AFP

TAIPEI (AFP) - LGBT activists in Taiwan braved a Valentine's Day downpour on Monday (Feb 14) to protest against the island's same-sex marriage law, which critics say falls short of full recognition for many international couples.

Under the law, those from Taiwan may legally wed foreigners but only from countries that also recognise marriage equality.

Taiwan's courts have been open to considering challenges on a case-by-case basis, but that requires the presence of both partners - an impossible task for many as foreign tourists are banned during the pandemic.

"It's not me who loves the wrong person - it's the government that fails to correct its mistake," said Andrew Chuang, who has been separated from his Japanese partner for more than two years.

He was among the dozens of LGBT activists and couples who gathered in front of Taiwan's seat of executive power to protest against the rules.

They tied hundreds of yellow ribbons around the compound's metal gates - a reference to the 1973 hit song "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree", in which lovers yearn to be reunited.

Each ribbon had the names and nationalities of separated couples, along with the number of days they have spent apart.

Foreign arrivals in Taiwan are currently limited to a few categories. These include diplomats, some international students and migrant workers from select countries.

Those able to stay on work or student visas are scared of future separations with no end in sight for the pandemic.

Taiwanese social worker Joyce Chan's partner of eight years, Queenie Oyong, is currently on a student visa but is afraid that a return to her native Philippines - where same-sex marriage is banned - could lead to an indefinite separation.

"We don't just want to be each other's Valentines - we want to become a real family," Chan said at the protest as she knelt on the ground during her plea to the authorities.

So far, three couples have won their challenges in court and have been allowed to wed despite the foreign partner being from a country that does not recognise same-sex marriage.

Home to a thriving LGBT community, Taiwan has recorded more than 7,000 same-sex marriages since the law was passed in 2019.

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