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September 23, 2017

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Mass demonstrations greet committee vote

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Supporters and opponents of marriage equality both rallied in their thousands outside the Legislative Yuan Monday, as a legislative committee approved a bill which would legalize same-sex unions.

Supporters of the amendment shouted "Stand up for marriage equality! All for the LGBT people (comrades)" — a play on the word comrades' double meaning in Chinese — as they decorated the road with rainbow flags and posters.

Meanwhile, anti-bill demonstrators chanted "Stop reviewing (the bill); let the people vote." The bill's opponents have called for a referendum on the issue, arguing that "a committee of 13 legislators should not decide how the nation defines family and marriage."

The opposing sides outside the Legislature adopted markedly different protest tactics.

While same-sex marriage advocates practiced yoga, violent clashes broke out between a group of the bill's opponents and police.

Opponents of the bill scuffled with officers, as demonstrators barged into the Legislative Yuan in an attempt to interrupt the committee meeting.

Protesters Handcuffed

More than 110 demonstrators who climbed over the fence into the Legislature were later handcuffed by police.

The police's approach drew protests from the demonstrators, who asked "Why are we being handcuffed? Why weren't protesters from the Sunflower Movement handcuffed? This is not fair!"

Two men were hospitalized in the incident, but no major injuries were reported.

Shortly after the bill was approved by the legislative committee, opponents of same-sex marriage decamped to the Presidential Office and began calling for President Tsai Ing-wen's resignation.

The pro-bill campaign claimed to have over 35,000 participants, while the police put the number at just over 5,000. Authorities estimated 4,000 demonstrators at the anti-bill campaign.

Responding to the call for a referendum from opponents of marriage equality, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Yu Mei-nu (尤美女), said that "we are not God. How can we decide on the human rights of others?"

A strong advocate of same-sex marriage, Yu has been at the forefront of the battle for legalization as the convener of the Judiciary and Organic Laws and Statutes Committee.

But DPP Caucus Whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) struck a more cautious tone, urging lawmakers to take this amendment "very seriously" because "making the law is different from pushing for social movements."

The conflict aroused by the legalization of same-sex marriage was a "product of society, but the solution to the conflict must be reached in the Legislative Yuan," Ker said.

"This amendment is not about your political views, but something that has to be workable for the people," he added.

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