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Taiwan parliament to vote on Asia's first gay marriage bill

A same-sex marriage supporter holds a rose to mourn those who have killed themselves because of discrimination

Lawmakers in Taiwan have approved a bill legalizing same-sex marriage, a landmark decision that makes the self-ruled island the first place in Asia to pass gay marriage legislation.

Under the act, same-sex couples would be able to become legally married from Friday next week to meet a two-year deadline stipulated in Constitutional Interpretation No. 748, which was handed down by the Council of Grand Justices on May 24, 2017.

Some surprising news today out of Taiwan, a country where 67% of the population rejected same-sex marriage in a national referendum less than six months ago-the national legislature has voted to legalize the practice of same-sex marriage, and the law will go into effect on May 24.

However, it still lets same-sex couples join an "exclusive permanent union" and apply for a "marriage registration" with government agencies.

Opponents have tabled two other versions which avoid the word marriage, offering something closer to same-sex unions with no adoption rights.

Thousands of gay rights supporters gathered outside parliament for the vote, despite heavy downpours.

"We need to take responsibility for the referendum a year ago and we need to take responsibility for people who have suffered from incomplete laws or faced discrimination", ruling party legislator Hsiao Bi-khim said during the three-hour parliament session.

People will get it if the couple can give their relationship a "name", said Hsu, a Taipei office worker.

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of the nongovernmental organization Human Rights Watch, also hailed Taiwan's ground-breaking passage of its marriage equality law.

Gay rights groups had previously indicated they were willing to accept compromises, as long as the new law recognized the concept of marriage, adding they could fight legal battles over surrogacy and adoption down the line.

"It's a breakthrough, I have to say so", said Shiau Hong-chi, professor of gender studies and communications management at Shih-Hsin University in Taiwan.

"Incredible victory for LGBT rights, non-discrimination, respect, & families!"

Taiwan's vote sets it apart from other parts of Asia where LGBTQ rights have regressed.

Activists said they would continue to push for more rights, such as recognition of transnational same-sex marriages, where one partner is from a country that does not recognise gay marriage.

Foxconn Technology Group's billionaire founder Terry Gou, who has announced a run for Taiwan's presidency, expressed misgivings over the new law.

While same-sex marriage is still illegal in China, homosexuality was decriminalised in the country in 1997, and officially removed from its list of mental illnesses three years later.