With massive crowds gathering for a gay pride parade in Taiwan, activists have called on the government to provide them with marriage rights. Christian pastors, foreign tourists and diplomats all showed their support.
Over 130,000 people marched on the streets of Taipei for the annual gay pride parade, urging voters to support LGBT rights in polls in November, organizers said on Saturday.
This year's parade is themed "Tell Your Story, Vote for Equality" as the self-ruling island debates several referendums on marriage equality and same-sex education in schools due to be held alongside local elections on November 24.
Participants carried banners reading "vote for a happy future" and "love is equal."
"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 39-year-old housewife Chen Yu-fang, who brought her two children to the rally.
Government on the clock
Taiwanese authorities organized the referendums following a landmark ruling in May 2017, when the island's constitutional court decided that the current laws were violating the "human dignity" of same-sex couples by not allowing them to marry. The court gave the government two years to adjust the legislation.
However, opposition groups also petitioned for their own referendums to block or undermine potential legal changes. They have also been scheduled for November 24.
Saturday's parade is the 16th annual gay pride event in Taiwan and is considered to be the largest of its kind in East Asia. Christian priests from Malaysia and South Korea also attended the rally, alongside visitors from about 20 other countries.
Germany's top diplomat in Taiwan, Thomas Prinz, said that the self-ruled island was "on the right direction."
"The fact that it is the biggest pride parade in East Asia shows that Taiwan has gone a long way," he told reporters at the parade.
Taiwan's president, Tsai Ing-wen, pledged to provide marriage equality in her 2016 election campaign, but progress has been slow due to massive resistance from conservative opposition.