Gay rights activists in Taiwan will march Saturday, November 1, to fight discrimination and promote gay rights as the government mulls legislation to legalize gay marriage, officials told Agence France-Presse on Thursday. "At least 500 people from some 22 homosexual groups have registered to participate in the first march of its kind in Taiwan," said Cheng Chih-wei, a member of the Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline Association. Some may wear masks, while others will be clad in different dresses to highlight their different aims, he said. The purpose of the march, called the Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights Movement, is to "declare to Taiwan the existence of gays and lesbians here," he said.
Cheng said the activists also seek a law prohibiting discrimination against gay men and lesbians and protecting what he said are basic human rights, including gay marriage and the right of gay couples to adopt children. The march will be the fourth year in a row a gay activity will be sponsored by Taipei city government's Bureau of Civil Affairs. The bureau said it hopes the march will help erode traditional hostility toward homosexuality in Taiwan. "Through the march, we want to present the 'sunshine' side of homosexuals to society...to let them be better understood by the general populace," said Li Ching-ling, an official of the bureau. The bureau sponsors sports and karaoke singing contests, drawing at least 3,000 gay and nongay people each year.
The march comes as Taiwan's cabinet is drafting a controversial bill to legitimize gay marriage and abolish the death penalty, an official said Monday. If the laws are approved by parliament, Taiwan would be the first in Asia to legalize marriages among people of the same sex. The final draft of the bill is expected to be ready for parliamentary review in December, the official said. But Cheng said he doubts the government's sincerity in pushing for passage of the law. "They talked and talked about the bill for many years. I doubt they have the sincerity in pressing for the bill," he said.