TAIPEI, Taiwan - Same-sex couples lined up on Friday in Taiwan to register their partnerships after the passage last week of a landmark law enabling marriages between two people of any gender.
By 10:00 p.m. local time, 526 same-sex couples had completed registration procedures across the whole island, 341 of which were women, the island's ministry of the interior said.
Nearly 100 marriages were registered in the island's capital alone, it said.
First to register at Taipei's Xinyi Rd. registry office, where city authorities put out drapes, rainbow balloons and bunting on the street outside, were Hsiao Hsuan and Hsiao Ming.
"It has been a long, hard road for us comrades," Hsiao Hsuan said, using the Chinese slang term for the LGBTIQ+ community.
"I feel very fortunate to have had the support of my friends, family and other half," he said. "The first time I went on a gay pride march, I waved the rainbow flag with a lot of passion, but I hid it away on the way back home afterwards because I daren't take it out."
"But today, I can say openly in front of all these people that we are comrades and we are going to get married," he said. "I feel very fortunate, and proud of my country."
Chen Hsue and her partner were also among the happy couples to tie the knot in Taipei.
"It took us three minutes to complete the registration, and yet it took us, all of the comrade organizations, 10 years to get to this point," Chen told RFA. "That feeling struck me very strongly."
"I wish to extend my heartfelt thanks to Taiwan for being such an open-minded and progressive society," she said. "Marriage for comrades is only the first step, and I would hope to see even greater social acceptance for comrades in the future as a result of the marriage [equality] law."
"We are just regular people who want to integrate into Taiwanese society. Taiwan is a very, very progressive country," she said. "I love Taiwan."
Chen Ching-hsue said he cried when he saw his new husband's name on his ID document under "Spouse."
"When I saw A Wei's name in the column titled 'spouse' I cried right there, I was so happy to have gotten this far," he said.
'Best result we could get'
Marriage equality campaiganer Lu Hsin-chieh said that the law wasn't exactly what they had campaigned for, but that it had been passed in order to comply with an interpretation of the constitution by Taiwan's highest court two years earlier.
"This special law was the best result we could get at this stage," Lu said, referring to a referendum last November that voted down marriage equality, a key part of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) President Tsai Ing-wen's 2016 campaign platform.
"The whole community of comrades understand this very well, so today everyone is very happy to be able to get married," Lu said. "I hope that once they have done so ... we will continue to work together in the future."
Lu said Taiwan could also lead the way for other countries in the region.
"We certainly hope that Taiwan's experience will speak to all Asian countries, because many people say that comrade culture and traditional Asian culture are mutually exclusive; that they do not blend well together," Lu said.
"But I think Taiwan is a good example of how they can find ways to co-exist. This is very important."
'Our family is complete'
Meanwhile, lesbian couple Chen Fan and Mu Te-tou said they were happy to formalize their union after having children together.
"The eldest was there through all of the medical treatment, the injections, the medications, the doctor's appointments [for the younger kids]," Mu said. "They all know that they came from artificial insemination, and that we bought the sperm."
"I'm Daddy," she said.
Chen Fan said: "Our family is complete now; we have everything now ... we take them to see their grandparents, and it's just like any other family."
Among the older couples getting wed on Friday were 76-year-old A Hsiang and 58-year-old Wang Tien-ming.
"Gay people have been misunderstood for so long, and there's too much hate in the opposing camp ... [who say] that we have sex like animals and why don't we care about love," A Hsiang said. "But feelings should come first, then desire."
Wang Tien-ming said marriage equality means for him being treated the same as heterosexuals.
"We haven't asked for much over these years of campaigning for marriage equality," he said. "We just want to be enjoy the freedom to marry, like everybody else."
Reported by Chung Kuang-cheng for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Hsia Hsiao-hwa for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.
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