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Same-sex marriage clears first hurdle

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- In a major step toward making Taiwan the first Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage, an amendment to the Civil Code was approved by a legislative committee on Monday.

After three hours of deliberation, the Judiciary and Organic Laws and Statutes Committee approved an adjusted version of an amendment proposed by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Yu Mei-nu (尤美女).

The committee jettisoned the most disputed clause of the proposed amendment, which would have replaced "male and female parties" in the Civil Code's marriage chapter with "two parties."

In its place, the committee compromised by adding sentence to the original clause stipulating that "an agreement to marry shall be made by the male and female parties in their own cord; An agreement to marry in a same-sex marriage, shall be made by the two parties in their own cord."

The committee also approved a clause guaranteeing an equal application of spousal and parental rights to both heterosexual and same-sex couples.

The addition to Article 1079-1 –- the clause governing adoptions –- prohibits a court from rejecting an application to adopt on the basis of the applicants' sexual orientation.

The amendment also raised the legal ages for women to get engaged and married, making them equal with those for men.

Under current laws, women can get engaged at 15 and marry at 16, while men can get engaged at 17 and married at 18

The committee's changes still need to pass through a round cross-party negotiations and a second and third reading in the Legislature before the amendments can be made into law.

"There are approximately six months before the bill could be passed by the Legislature and officially take effect ... During which we must continue to advocate, communicate, and try to reach and create greater mutual understanding in society," Yu said at the end of Monday's session.

"The bill will now be sent for cross-party negotiations," said Yu, who serves as convener of the Judiciary and Organic Laws and Statutes Committee.

With the Legislature set to go into recess soon before the beginning of a new session in February, discussions on the controversial bill are not expected to take place until April or May next year.

Civic groups supporting and opposing same-sex marriage gathered outside the Legislature on Monday morning prior to the screening of the bill.

"This is not the end of the world," Yu said, who was met with hurrahs.

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