In a first for Taiwan, three military personnel will get married to their same sex partners at the  the country’s annual mass wedding hosted by the army on October 30.

The joint wedding ceremonies will be held at the Army Command Headquarters in Taoyuan, it was announced on the defence force’s official Facebook page.

LGBTQI rights activists have welcomed the acceptance that has come from what is considered one of the most conservative arms of the government.

“It is definitely another big step forward to solidify Taiwan’s gender equality movement. [The same sex marriages] also show top down support of diversity and inclusiveness even among the supposedly most conservative of all government departments, the military,” Darien Chen, activist and co-chair of the first Taiwan LGBT Pride March in 2003, told Star Observer.

The three same sex couples were among the 52 couples who have been featured on the army’s social media page, asking social media users to like the photos and vote online for various awards “to make the couples feel special.” The three same same sex couples – Wang Yi and Meng Youmei, Chen Ying-xuan and Li Wan-zhen, and Chen Yin-gru and Chen Wenting – have garnered the congratulatory messages and the most likes.

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 The weddings in the military have come a year and half after Taiwan became the first country in Asia to legalise same sex marriages in May 2019. Last year, three same sex couples had registered to get married in the joint military wedding, but subsequently dropped out, reportedly after the intense media attention.

The ceremonies will take place a day before Taiwan holds its annual Pride March on October 31, 2020. With the coronavirus pandemic well under control, Taiwan will be one of the few countries in the world this year to host not one but two Pride marches. Earlier this year, the Taiwan Pride Parade For The World was held in Taipei on the anniversary of the Stonewall riots on June 28, 2020.

Since marriage equality in May 2019, over 3,500 same sex couples have got married in Taiwan. The law however is not equal in all respects, rights activists have said.  Taiwanese citizens can marry their foreign partners only if their spouse’s home country recognises same sex marriages. The law similarly is not equal when it comes to adoption rights for same sex couples. Same sex couples are only allowed to adopt the biological children of their spouses.

Transgender people in Taiwan continue to face challenges as a survey published in April revealed that over 37% of trans people had reported discrimination and bullying at the work place. Over 55% said they were uncomfortable using a public restroom and 18% had been attacked or harassed in public. Trans people who wish to change their gender in Taiwan are required to submit proof that they have undergone surgery to remove their reproductive organs.

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