Taiwan court rules in favour of same-sex marriage
Taiwan's Constitutional Court has ruled in favour of same-sex marriage, making the island the first place in Asia to recognise gay unions.
The court said the current civil code that does not permit same-sex marriages was a violation of two articles of the constitution of the Republic of China, Taiwan's official name.
It says authorities must either enact or amend relevant laws within two years, failing which same-sex couples could have their marriages recognised by submitting a document.
Both the ruling and major opposition parties support legalisation of same-sex marriage, as do a majority of the public and President Tsai Ing-wen.
Gays and lesbians in Taiwan have formed an effective lobby in recent years, with an annual Gay Pride march drawing tens of thousands.
While some conservative religious and social groups have mobilised against same-sex marriage, their influence is much less potent than in the United States and many other parts of the world.
"The need, capability, willingness and longing, in both physical and psychological senses, for creating such permanent unions of intimate and exclusive nature are equally essential to homosexuals and heterosexuals, given the importance of the freedom of marriage to the sound development of personality and safeguarding of human dignity," the court said in its ruling.
Two of the court's 15 justices filed dissenting opinions and one recused himself in the case.
Despite the spread of same-sex marriage in a few regions since 2001, gay and lesbian couples had been allowed to marry in only 22 of the world's nearly 200 countries.
In Asia, Taiwan is the first government to legalise such unions, while South Africa is the only country in Africa to allow them.
More than 70 countries continue to criminalise homosexual activity.
Globally, the pace of civil rights victories has slowed against the background of a steady stream of reports of anti-gay violence and persecution.
Recent weeks have witnessed large-scale detentions of gay men in Nigeria and Bangladesh, and accounts of round-ups and torture of scores of gays in Chechnya.
In Indonesia, a major police raid on a gay sauna was followed two days later by the public caning of two gay men.