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Marriage Ruling Boosts Taiwan Pride March

by Ed Walsh

People filled downtown Taipei, in front of the East Gate, at the start of last weekend's Taiwan Pride march. Photo: Ed Walsh
People filled downtown Taipei, in front of the East Gate, at the start of last weekend's Taiwan Pride march. Photo: Ed Walsh  (Source:Ed Walsh)

The thousands who packed downtown Taipei last weekend for Taiwan's 15th annual Pride march had an extra reason to celebrate. The country is on the verge of being the first in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage.

In May, Taiwan's highest court ruled legislators have up to two years to change the law to allow for same-sex nuptials.

?The head of Taiwan Pride, Simon Tai, told the Bay Area Reporter that his organization estimates that 123,000 people attended the celebration this year, making it Asia's second largest Pride parade. Israel, he added, still boasts the continent's largest Pride.

The parade kicked off at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, October 28, from the heart of Taipei's downtown, at the East Gate near the Presidential Office Building, and concluded about two hours later. Entertainment and speeches preceded the parade and continued for three hours after it ended.

The parade took three different routes that eventually made it back to the starting point. A total of 160 groups representing colleges, non-governmental organizations, and businesses made up the parade's marchers.

The theme of this year's Pride was partially borrowed from America's Vietnam era: "Make Love, Not War - Sex Ed is the Way to Go." Now that the fight for same-sex marriage in the country has taken a new turn in the Legislature, organizers are urging that sex education programs in school teach respect for all orientations and encourage open discussions of issues related to sexuality.

Taiwan Pride began in 2003, with just 500 participants, and attendance has been steadily growing ever since. Organizers said about 40,000 more people attended this year over last year.

Tai said Pride is funded mostly by donations from corporations and businesses and that it gets no money from the government. The Pride chief added that donations from Japanese businesses and individual businesspeople made up a big chunk of its funding. San Francisco-based Uber was among the major sponsors. The company's name was spelled out in big block letters at the start of the parade.

Taiwan's tourism officials hope that events like Pride and its soon-to-be status as being the first Asian country to permit same-sex marriage will help cement its image as being a friendly destination for LGBT travelers. The island country offers visitors a rich Asian cultural experience and a very lively gay nightlife scene, giving tourists plenty of opportunities to mix it up with locals.

Taipei is also a very safe and clean city. One will see very little graffiti on buildings or trash in the street. In sharp contrast to San Francisco, panhandling is rare and visitors won't see homeless people camped out on downtown streets.

Taiwan is a little over a 13-hour flight from the Bay Area and is serviced with nonstop flights from San Francisco International Airport on United Airlines as well as the Taiwanese carriers Eva Air and China Airlines. The country is less than a two-hour flight from Hong Kong, which this week was awarded the 2022 Gay Games. [See Sports Briefs.]

Just 111 miles separate Taiwan from mainland China at the Taiwan Strait.

Despite its proximity to China, Taiwanese feel closer to Japan, which had occupied the country for about 50 years until the end of World War II in 1945. The island's status as an independent state has been in limbo since. China has not given up claim to Taiwan while the U.S. has promised to defend its right to independence.

President Donald Trump broke protocol last year when he took a congratulatory phone call from Taiwan's president just after he won election and before he assumed office. Taiwanese who support independence took that as a sign that the president will be a strong ally to help it maintain the status quo as a prosperous capitalist democracy.

Taiwan has a population of a little over 23 million. Taipei, on the northern end of the island, is its capital. With a population of 2.7 million, Taipei supports about three-dozen gay bars, nightclubs, saunas, and a gay hotel opened in the city earlier this year.


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