Between rainbow flags, tears and in uniform, two Taiwanese homosexual military couples have said "yes, I do" this Friday, in a multiple ceremony organized by the armed forces. It was the first time that same-sex couples participated in the joint wedding that, once a year, the Taiwanese army officiated for its soldiers.
Taiwan, one of the most advanced societies in Asia in equal rights for homosexuals, became the first territory to legalize equal marriage in May last year, following a court decision.
Already last year, three same-sex military couples had registered to participate in the joint wedding ceremony, although they finally gave up on the idea due to the enormous media coverage it generated.
This year, among the 188 couples who participated in the group wedding were Army Commander Wang Yi, 36, and his girlfriend, Meng Yumi, 37. Also Lieutenant Chen Ying-hsuan, 26, who was married to Li Lichen, 25.
Wang could not hold back his tears when the Chief of the Land General Staff, General Chen Pao-yu, expressed his congratulations and presented him with the marriage certificate in a large red envelope, the color of happiness and good luck. "I hope we can make the homosexual community more visible and help people accept that we are part of normal life," said the commander.
"It is a great step for the army," Chen said in statements to the press, while she and his new wife waved rainbow flags. “I hope that more worried same-sex military couples now dare to step up boldly. You are not alone. The Taiwanese army is open, and we are all equal in the face of love. Li nodded to underline the idea that there are no differences: "Our love is the same as that of any heterosexual couple."
The two bridal couples and their families highlighted the remarkable progress in the military mindset in the past year and a half. Since gay couples can register their marriages, the Taiwanese armed forces have accepted them among military personnel.
“The most important thing is that it allows those who want to come out of the closet to do so with peace of mind. And what we families want is the happiness of our children, ”Commander Meng's mother told the Taiwanese news agency, CNA.
The group wedding took place the day before Taiwan celebrates its Gay Pride Day, with a parade expected to see tens of thousands of people. The island has successfully managed the coronavirus pandemic and this Thursday it celebrated 200 days without new local infections.
Taiwan is a leader in Asia in the defense of equality and its LGTBI community is one of the most active on the continent. President Tsai Ing-wen spoke out publicly in favor of same-sex marriage during her campaign for the 2016 elections. Since legalization, some 4,000 gay couples have been married.
But Taiwanese society is still generally conservative, and remains deeply divided on issues such as the children of gay couples. Religious groups were directly opposed to the legalization of equal marriage. And despite this legalization, some restrictions persist. For example, a wedding between a Taiwanese national and a foreign person is only authorized if the latter's country of origin also recognizes links between citizens of the same sex.