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Homosexuals Better Off In Taiwan Than China

  • Thibault Worth

Members of Taiwan's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community marched by the thousands in downtown Taipei Saturday. Taiwan is more accepting of homosexuals than nearby China, where demonstrations of any kind are forbidden. But parade organizers in the Taiwanese capital, Taipei, there is still a long way to go. Thibault Worth reports from Taipei.

Despite Taipei's gloomy weather Saturday, participants came by the thousands waving signs and sporting rainbow-colored shirts or outlandish costumes. The annual gay pride parade attracted 18,000 participants this year, up from 500 when it started in 2003. That makes it the largest gay pride parade in the Chinese-speaking world.

But gay rights leaders say little progress has been made toward revising old laws against gays and lesbians, as well as drafting new civil rights legislation. Two years ago, then Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou spoke at the parade, calling homosexuality a "natural phenomenon." But as president, Mr. Ma has provided little support. Neither have most members of the legislature. David Lee, a festival organizer, says it's a typical pattern.

Lee says he thinks the status of the Taiwanese gay community is steadily improving. However, he says, politicians typically support gays before elections, then distance themselves after they are in office.

During former president Chen Sui-bian's era, a basic human rights law was drafted that supported same-sex marriage. But the law was never passed by the legislature. Gay rights groups hope with continued pressure, politicians will start to take them more seriously.

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