Taiwan activists hope same-sex marriage ruling will be trailblazer in Asia

TAIPEI, May 23 (Reuters) - Taiwan same-sex couple Daphne Chiang and Kenny Jhuang are getting married at the end of the year - even if the government won't legalize their union.

Self-ruled Taiwan's constitutional court will rule on Wednesday whether same-sex couples can tie the knot under existing law, in a decision the island's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups widely expect to be favorable.

Such an outcome would be a first in Asia, where socially conservative attitudes mostly hold sway, but regardless of the decision, Daphne and Kenny plan their wedding banquet in December, with more than 100 guests attending.

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Taiwan's same-sex marriage debate
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Taiwan's same-sex marriage debate
Daphne Chiang (R), 32, an insurance consultant, tries on a wedding dress with her same-sex partner Kenny Jhuang, 33, a service worker in Taipei, Taiwan, May 17, 2017. "Once it passes we'll have everything, further protection," Chiang said. "But before that, we have to make the most of what we have." REUTERS/Tyrone Siu SEARCH "SIU SAME SEX" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY.
Hare Lin (L), 42, a publisher, and Cho Chia-lin, 47, a writer, pose for a photograph in Taoyuan, Taiwan, May 14, 2017. "When I first held the gay parade in 2003, there were only around a thousand people, but a few years later, the march is attended by 50 to 60 thousand," Lin said. "Also there are artists, politicians, council members, and even a presidential candidate. I believe this world can be changed. I believe Taiwan can be changed." REUTERS/Tyrone Siu SEARCH "SIU SAME SEX" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Solo Lee (R), 32, an artist's agent and Lisa Cho, 25, an administrative assistant, pose for a photograph in New Taipei City, Taiwan, May 14, 2017. "In my view, love is simply a goodness, it makes people happy," Lee said. "We are the same as heterosexuals in love: we only love one person." REUTERS/Tyrone Siu SEARCH "SIU SAME SEX" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Chi Chia-wei, 59, a gay rights activist, leaves a bathroom in Taipei, Taiwan, May 16, 2017. "If Taiwan refuses to improve, we will continue our efforts and make a rainbow country. Even a revolution," he said. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu SEARCH "SIU SAME SEX" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Leber Li (R), 35, a restaurant owner, drives with Amely Chen, 35, and their son Mork, in Yilan, Taiwan, May 15, 2017. "It was our dream to have children. We have a child through artificial insemination, but only one of us can be registered to be the mother, while the other without a blood connection has no way to exercise the legal duty of being a parent. This is so unfair. The baby has the love of two mothers. It does not matter how a family is formed as long as there is love. The baby can face anything in the world if the love between us is strong," said Chen. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu SEARCH "SIU SAME SEX" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Daniel Cho (L), 37, a container ship captain and Chin Tsai, 48, a homemaker, pose for a photograph in Taipei, Taiwan, May 16, 2017. "Daniel relocated to New York for his job, but since the Taiwanese government doesn't recognise our relationship, I can?t apply for a spousal visa to go with him," said Tsai. "If it passes on (Wednesday), we will be the first in line on Thursday morning to the registry of marriages." REUTERS/Tyrone Siu SEARCH "SIU SAME SEX" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Huang Zi-ning (L), 19, a student and Kang Xin-fang, 19, a part-time student, pose for a photograph in Taoyuan, Taiwan, May 17, 2017. "Anti same-sex marriage groups say they go against us because they want to protect the next generation. But I am the next generation. Why do they listen to those who are about to die instead of our voices? We need to speak out," said Zi-ning. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu SEARCH "SIU SAME SEX" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Hu Sheng Xiang (L), 31, and Pan Shi Xin, 46, both LGBT rights activists, pose for a photograph in Taipei, Taiwan, May 21, 2017. "I support same-sex marriage, but I think it's expanded too much and taken most of the resources. The LGBT movement is not just about same-sex marriage, there are lots of other issues concerning sexual minorities, such as supporting the partners and communities of LGBT members who have mental illness. The government and the current LGBT movement don't even touch upon this. Sexual minority communities don't just need marriage, they need more than that," Sheng Xiang said. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu SEARCH "SIU SAME SEX" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Wang Yi (R), 32, an artist and Meng Yu-mei, 34, a sales assistant, pose for a photograph in New Taipei City, Taiwan, May 14, 2017. "You think we want to go through all of this hardship? We have difficult relationships with our parents. We had very complicated feelings about this. If it was possible, I would rather I was not gay. But I felt the discussion of same-sex marriage is what a free country should do under the rule of law. Everyone can go against us, but we can go against them too. The discussion is fair. Taiwan is a democratic country," Yi said. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu SEARCH "SIU SAME SEX" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Huang Chen-ting (L), 30, a school administrator and Lin Chi-xuan, 28, a personal trainer, pose for a photograph in Taipei, Taiwan, May 16, 2017. "We are the same as heterosexuals. Discrimination has taken many forms, from the skin colour of the black slaves in the past, to sexual orientation at the moment, but all of us are human beings. We all fight for fair treatment," Chi-xuan said. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu SEARCH "SIU SAME SEX" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
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"You still have to live your life," said Daphne, vowing not to let an unfavorable ruling derail the plan. "Marriage is about whether the people around you, your friends around you, know, or not."

But even a favorable decision by the court, or Judicial Yuan, as it is known, could take a year or two to translate into laws allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry, experts say.

This is because the court is expected to give lawmakers time to frame relevant measures, said one lawyer who frequently appears before it.

"It makes sense that they would give a grace period to allow legislation to be passed," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity, due to the sensitivity of the matter.

Democratic Taiwan is famed for an annual gay pride parade that showcases the vibrancy of its lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

The community has high expectations its years-long effort to legalize same-sex marriage will win the court's backing, because of support for gay rights by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) that swept national elections last year.

RELATED: LGBT celebrations at the White House

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Love wins: LGBT celebrations at the White House
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Love wins: LGBT celebrations at the White House

Rainbow colored lights shine on the White House to celebrate todays US Supreme Court ruling in favor of same-sex marriage June 26, 2015 in Washington, DC. Today the high court ruled 5-4 that the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage in all 50 states.

(Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

A woman uses a smartphone to take a photo of the White House lightened in the rainbow colors in Washington on June 26. 2015. The US Supreme Court ruled Friday that gay marriage is a nationwide right, a landmark decision in one of the most keenly awaited announcements in decades and sparking scenes of jubilation.

(MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)

Gay marriage supporters carried balloons that spelled the words 'Love Wins' in front of the White House tonight.The White House was lit in multi-colored lights tonight to honor the Supreme Court decision to allow gay marriage.

(Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

The White House stands illuminated in rainbow colored light at dusk in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, June 26, 2015. The Supreme Court's ruling that gay marriage is legal nationwide is a 'victory for America,' U.S. President Barack Obama said today, declaring that justice had arrived for same-sex couples with 'a thunderbolt.'

(Drew Angerer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

People take photos of the White House lightened in the rainbow colors in Washington on June 26. 2015. The US Supreme Court ruled Friday that gay marriage is a nationwide right, a landmark decision in one of the most keenly awaited announcements in decades and sparking scenes of jubilation.

(MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)

Gay activists hold signs in front of the White House lightened in the rainbow colors in Washington on June 26. 2015. The US Supreme Court ruled Friday that gay marriage is a nationwide right, a landmark decision in one of the most keenly awaited announcements in decades and sparking scenes of jubilation.

(MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)

People hold balloon letters reading 'Love wins' in front of the White House lightened in the rainbow colors in Washington on June 26, 2015. The US Supreme Court ruled Friday that gay marriage is a nationwide right, a landmark decision in one of the most keenly awaited announcements in decades and sparking scenes of jubilation.

(MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)

A gay couple hold each other as they look on at the White House lightened in the rainbow colors in Washington on June 26. 2015. The US Supreme Court ruled Friday that gay marriage is a nationwide right, a landmark decision in one of the most keenly awaited announcements in decades and sparking scenes of jubilation.

(Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images)

A gay activist talks on the phone on front of the White House lightened in the rainbow colors in Washington on June 26. 2015. The US Supreme Court ruled Friday that gay marriage is a nationwide right, a landmark decision in one of the most keenly awaited announcements in decades and sparking scenes of jubilation.

(MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)

People hold balloon letters reading 'Love wins' in front of the White House lightened in the rainbow colors in Washington on June 26, 2015. The US Supreme Court ruled Friday that gay marriage is a nationwide right, a landmark decision in one of the most keenly awaited announcements in decades and sparking scenes of jubilation.

(MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)

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"If it passes (Wednesday), we will be the first in line Thursday morning," said Chin Tsai, who wants legal recognition of a four-year-long relationship so he can join his partner in the United States.

His partner, a ship captain, will move to New York for his job, but Tsai cannot follow as a spouse, unless Taiwan deems their union legal.

If the court decides current law does not permit same-sex marriage, it is expected to rule whether such denial violates Taiwan citizens' freedom to marry and constitutional rights.

"Resolving differences is a start - more dialog and understanding are needed," President Tsai Ing-wen, whose cabinet includes the island's first transgender minister, said on social network Twitter after a February meeting with representatives of both sides of the same-sex marriage issue.

The court held a public hearing in March, after years of refusal to take up the issue, prompted by petitions from a gay rights activist and a city government facing growing requests for same-sex marriages.

"It cannot be that you make your decision the day you have the public hearing. They probably wanted to clarify some points in their minds."

Legal experts say the 15 judges on the court form the most liberal such group ever, with seven appointed by Tsai after becoming president. One of the 15 has recused himself from the case, as he is married to a lawmaker who backs gay rights.

Five months after Kenny went on her knees to propose to Daphne at a rally of thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender couples on Taipei's largest boulevard, the women, both in their early 30s, were trying on wedding outfits.

They were considering a white suit for Kenny, to match a dreamy white wedding dress Daphne favored. But work will keep them from joining a rally timed to coincide with Wednesday's decision.

"Once it passes we'll have everything, further protection," said Daphne. "But before that, we have to make the most of what we have."

(Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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