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Two female soldiers and their civilian wives were among the nearly 200 couples to tie the knot at a huge wedding ceremony in Taiwan. Congratulatory messages for the couples poured in from around the world.
Taiwan's military hosted its first same-sex weddings on Friday in another landmark for Asia's LGBT community. Two female soldiers married their civilian same-sex partners as nearly 200 couples took part in a mass outdoor wedding ceremony.
Taiwan became the first place in the region to allow same-sex marriage in May 2019 after a bruising political fight.
"This is another big step forward for the military," said Lieutenant Chen Ying-hsuan, 27, dressed in her army uniform. "I hope more same-sex couples can bravely stand out. The military is open and we are all equal in front of love."
"Our love is no different than any heterosexual couple," beamed her 26-year-old bride Li Li-chen, dressed in a traditional white gown. "We are here today in the hope that more same-sex couples will join the next (mass wedding)."
Major Wang Yi, 36 and her partner, Yumi Meng, waved rainbow flags as they posed for photos with family in front of an armored vehicle.
"It's great to see the progress in the military," said Yumi Meng, 37, adding that she was "proud" her wife was a serving soldier.
Photos of the two couples went viral after they were posted on the army's Facebook page earlier this week, with congratulatory messages pouring from across Taiwan and beyond.
Three same-sex couples were planning to join a mass wedding hosted by the Navy and the Air Force last year, but they pulled out following huge media interest.
Taiwan was once blanketed in the martial authoritarianism of Chiang Kai-shek, but in recent decades it has emerged as one of Asia's most vibrant liberal democracies.
In the last 10 years, it has become increasingly progressive on LGBT+ rights with Taipei hosting Asia's largest annual pride parade.
Last year, Taiwan made history with the region's first same-sex weddings after parliament passed a same-sex marriage law with couples tying the knot in jubilant scenes broadcast worldwide.
Over 4,000 same-sex couples have registered their marriages since the law took effect.
The island will hold its annual pride march on Saturday, with large crowds expected in one of the few places that have managed to successfully defeat the coronavirus pandemic.
But the issue has caused deep divisions on the island, especially among conservative religious groups and older generations.
While the marriage law was seen as a major success for the LGBT+ community in Taiwan, it still contains restrictions not faced by heterosexual couples, including for adoption and foreign marriages.
jf/sms (AFP, Reuters)