- (Photo: Pichi Chuang/Reuters)
Taiwan's first ever same-sex marriage ceremony took place in the northern part of the country over the weekend, signaling to some that Taiwan could become the first Asian country to possibly legalize such unions.
"Buddhism does not dismiss homosexuality from an ideological point of view, and in Confucianism it's a grey area, so Eastern societies tend to be more open-minded towards homosexuality," Shih Chao-hui, the female Buddhist master who performed the same-sex union of Fish Huang and You Ya-ting in Taoyuan county on Aug. 11, told the Jakarta Globe.
However, although Shih makes this claim, others argue that she is on the more liberal side of the Buddhist religion and is not a true representation of a Buddhist leader.
"In general, Buddhist leaders are socially conservative, but Buddhist lay people can be very different from them," Andre Laliberte, a social scientist at the University of Ottawa and author of Politics of Buddhist Organizations in Taiwan, 1989-2003, told the Jakarta Globe.
The female couple's parents were not present at the wedding ceremony, and Huang told media outlets that her parents chose to avoid media exposure by missing the event.
"My parents have known my sexual orientation for many years, but at first, they couldn't really accept it," Huang told reporters prior to the wedding. "So, when we started dating seven years ago, I took her (Yu) home frequently to meet my family and let them know who I was going out with and gradually, they came to accept it."
"Our parents originally agreed to come to our wedding, but they felt they were not prepared for the media exposure, so they decided not to come," she concluded.
Same-sex marriage is viewed differently throughout Asia, depending on the country and the majority religion.
In Malaysia, for example, homosexual acts are punishable by up to 20 years in prison. The country's officials have previously stated that they enlist criminal bans on such behavior because they "fear that this abnormal behavior will be regarded as a norm."
"Islam prohibits deviant sexual orientation or behavior," Abdul Rahman Osman, an Islamic cleric of the Pahang state, was quoted as saying in reference to a 2011 push to criminalize gay acts on both state and federal levels in two Malaysian states.
In Vietnam and Nepal, gay activists have been advocating for the legalization of same-sex marriage, and Myanmar and Laos have recently held their first-ever gay pride events.
As CNN notes, Taiwan was the first nation in Asia to introduce a bill in 2003 seeking to legalize marriage and adoption for same-sex couples. This bill has made little advancement in the country's legislature, however.