Almost 140,000 people have taken to the streets in the city of Taipei in Taiwan for an annual pride parade, where they encouraged people to vote in favour of same-sex marriage in a referendum which will take place in November.
The country’s government announced the referendum earlier this month after Taiwan’s Constitutional Court ruled that they would have to introduce same-sex marriage in May 2017.
The theme of the parade was “Tell Your Story, Vote For Equality,” with many holding posters and slogans asking the public to vote in favour of legalising same-sex marriage in next month’s referendum.
The referendum is an attempt to throw a roadblock in the way of reform by creating a different legal union for same-sex couples, and denying them the right to marry.
It was called after a number of anti-LGBT+ groups came together after the Constitutional Court’s decision and gathered hundreds of thousands of signatures against same-sex marriage.
Despite this, the referendum has not deterred Taiwan’s LGBT+ community from fighting for equal marriage, as today’s pride parade demonstrated.
The country is debating several referendums, including one on same-sex education in schools.
The parade was the 16th annual gay pride parade in Taiwan, and is the largest of its kind in East Asia.
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It attracted huge numbers, including priests from Malaysia and South Korea, alongside visitors from about than 20 countries.
Marriage equality in Taiwan has been a hotly contested issue. The country’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, pledged to introduce equal marriage in his 2016 election campaign, however progress has been halted by conservative opposition.
The referendum has been met with concern from LGBT+ activists, who fear that couples could end up with a “discriminatory” form of union rather than the right to marry.
Jennifer Lu, coordinator of Marriage Equality Coalition Taiwan, told Reuters: “As Taiwanese, we feel sorry but we don’t have time and room for disappointment.”
The campaign against equal marriage was led by the Coalition for the Happiness of Our Next Generation, which has stirred anti-LGBT+ sentiment in the country.
Their proposed referendum would “strictly define [marriage] as between a man and a woman.”
The Taipei Times reports that a separate question mooted by the group seeks to ban mentions of homosexuality in schools.
The group claims the issues “entirely affect Taiwan’s moral principles and family values.”
The country has until May 2019 to settle the issue.