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  • A rainbow flag is seen in front of Taiwan's flag during a rally to support the upcoming same-sex marriage referendum, in Taipei, Taiwan November 18, 2018.

    A rainbow flag is seen in front of Taiwan's flag during a rally to support the upcoming same-sex marriage referendum, in Taipei, Taiwan November 18, 2018. | Photo: Reuters

Published 21 February 2019

"Controversies are expected about the proposal, but I really hope our homosexual friends can wait a bit longer," Premier Su Tseng-chang said.

Taiwan proposed a draft law to allow same-sex marriage in Asia's first such bill Thursday, however, the legislation was criticized by rights activists and conservative groups amid a heated debate over marriage equality.

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Voters had opposed marriage equality in a series of referendums late last year, defining marriage strictly as between a man and a woman and asking for a special law to be enacted for same-sex unions. The draft law unveiled by cabinet Thursday would give same-sex couples similar legal protections for marriage as heterosexuals, though marriage according to civil law would remain defined between a man and woman.

Premier Su Tseng-chang said the bill respected the referendum results, though activists said a separate law for gay marriage was discriminatory.

"Controversies are expected about the proposal, but I really hope our homosexual friends can wait a bit longer," Su said in a statement. “This might fall short of expectations, but after all it's a start."

Jennifer Lu, the coordinator of Marriage Equality Coalition Taiwan, criticized the draft for not giving complete legal protections to same-sex couples. She acknowledged the pressure on the government from all sides but said activists will continue to fight for equal rights.

Taiwan's parliament is expected to vote on the draft bill by late May, a legislative deadline set by the constitutional court May 2017, when it ruled that same-sex couples had the right to legally marry. The divisive matter has been a challenge for President Tsai Ing-wen, whose party suffered a major defeat in local elections last November amid criticism for her reform agenda, which included marriage equality.

Conservative groups that opposed same-sex marriage during the referendum said they would also fight the draft bill. The Coalition for the Happiness of Our Next Generation called the draft "unacceptable" Thursday.

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