Flamboyant drag queens and horned devils rubbed shoulders with Christian pastors as tens of thousands of people took part in Taiwan's gay pride parade, the largest in Asia. The massive march, attended by nearly 130,00 people, was held in capital Taipei on Saturday in advance of a landmark vote next month on LGBT rights.
In Asia's first such ruling, Taiwan's top court legalised gay marriage in May last year and said its decision must be implemented within two years. The island will hold a series of public votes on same-sex marriage on November 24.
Rights activists say President Tsai Ing-wen has made little progress on the issue, despite campaigning on a promise of marriage equality during the 2016 election. Waving rainbow banners, placards and fans printed with slogans saying "love is equal" and "vote for a happy future", participants gathered at the square outside the presidential office.
"I support the referendums because marriage equality is a basic human right that nobody should be deprived of and gender equality education at school is crucial to prevent discrimination and bullying," said Chen Yu-fang, a 39-year-old homemaker who brought her two children to the rally.
Many called the proposal to make a separate law for gay marriage "discriminatory", citing the 2017 ruling that current laws violate the right to freedom of marriage and equality. "We will use our vote to tell Tsai Ing-wen's government that people want marriage equality," said Miao Poya, one of the activists who proposed a referendum in favour of gay marriage.
Society is still divided, Tsai said this year, but assured the government would abide by the court ruling.
Conservative groups, including Christian churches, have been pushing back against the initiative, saying marriage should be defined as "a bond between one man and one woman".
In response, pro-LGBT campaigners have put forward their own referendum proposing that the code should be amended, which will also go to the vote next month. They have also put forward a referendum calling for same-sex education in schools.
If the conservative referendum is successful, it may require a separate law to be enacted for gay marriage, which campaigners say would be discriminatory. Referendum proposals in Taiwan are put to a public vote if they are supported by 1.5 percent of the electorate - a little over 280,000 signatures. They are also legally binding.
"We hope the government will take the issue seriously. It's a pity that there has been no action after the court decision," said Chin Kuang-chih, 26, a drag queen performer.
Source: AL JAZEERA