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Taiwanese military mass wedding to feature its first same-sex couples

Helen Davidson in Taipei
·2-min read

Two same-sex couples are to be married in the Taiwanese army’s annual mass wedding ceremony this week, in a first after the island’s government legalised marriage equality 18 months ago.

The female soldiers and their civilian partners – Chen Ying-xuan and Lee Ying-ying, and Wang Yi and Meng Youmei – will wed on Friday.

Taiwan, a self-governing democracy, has become one of the most progressive communities in Asia since it transitioned from authoritarian rule in the late 1980s. It became the first place in the region to legalise same-sex marriage in May 2019.

The military said: “Our country … has become the first in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage and the ministry gives its blessings to same-sex servicemen who are getting married.”

It posted dozens of wedding photos of couples taking part in Friday’s formalities and asked people to vote on their favourite. The photo of Wang and Meng has been liked more than 31,000 times on Facebook alone.

“Not only did you make your presence felt, but you also make “our” voice heard. So, so proud of you!” wrote one commenter. Another wrote: “You defend our country, we defend your freedom.”

A Taipei city councillor commented: “Love makes Taiwan stronger, bless every lover, and cheer for the continuous improvement of the national army.”

A spokesperson for a social media group advocating for LGBT awareness in the military told the Guardian they were pleased to see a traditionally conservative institution accept and “give blessings” to same-sex marriage.

“This is not only a great encouragement to the LGBT community but also to the army,” they said. “It’s proof that LGBT people can have equal rights and, like everyone else, are capable of defending the country.”

Three same-sex couples were due to take part in last year’s ceremony but withdrew.

Thousands of couples have registered their marriage since the 2019 law took effect. While the law has been widely celebrated, it does not grant full equality. Taiwanese people seeking to marry foreigners of the same sex can only do so if their partner’s home country also legally recognises marriage equality.

Adoption and assisted reproduction rights are also more restrictive than for heterosexual couples, with gay couples only allowed to adopt children biologically related to one of them.

The ceremony is being held the day before Taiwan Pride, the annual LGBTQI parade in Taipei.