Thousands protested in Taipei on Thursday against draft bills that would make Taiwan the first place in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage, arguing traditional family values would be undermined.
Protesters dressed in white and holding placards with the slogans including “Stand forward for the next generation’s happiness” packed a street outside the parliament where a committee was debating the issue.
They shook their hands in the air and gave the thumbs-down as they watched a live stream of the committee meeting on a big screen.
Supporters of gay rights are more hopeful than ever that same-sex marriage will soon become a reality under the pro-gay rights Democratic Progressive Party, which is in control of parliament for the first time.
But opposing voices have been building since proposed amendments to legalise same-sex marriage passed initial vetting in parliament earlier this month.
While Taiwan is considered progressive on many issues, its roots in Confucianism translate into a strong sense of adherence to traditional values such as family loyalty and social hierarchy.
David Tseng, spokesman of the rally’s organiser, The Happiness of the Next Generation Alliance, said that while the group supported equal rights for same-sex partners in certain areas, marriage should only be between a man and a woman.
“Now they want to amend the law to do away with the ‘father’ and ‘mother’ altogether,” he said.
“We are different from the West. In Eastern culture, we place great importance on filial piety to one’s father and mother. This is a virtue we must keep,” he said.
Tseng also called for a referendum on the issue, criticising the absence of public participation in drafting the bills.
Taiwan is one of the region’s most forward-thinking societies when it comes to gay rights, but progress on marriage equality had been stagnant, because of resistance from the Kuomintang political party, which dominated politics for decades before being unseated by the DPP in May.
President Tsai Ing-wen has also openly supported marriage equality and said she would respect any decision reached by parliament.
A Christian alliance came to Taipei from the south of the island on Thursday to protest. Dozens wearing black clerical clothing listened to a sermon while some blew horns used during worship.
“Only a heterosexual marriage can create the possibility of bearing children and only then can we sustain the nation’s next generation,” said Wang Tzu-hao, a pastor representing the group.
“Marriage is a human right, but like all human rights there are limitations,” he said.
A smattering of rainbow flags were also seen amid the protesters and a small group of gay marriage supporters also gathered outside parliament.
Nicole Yu, who described herself as a Christian, said she hoped the bill would pass so her parents would no longer be afraid to tell friends their daughter is gay.
“The Bible does not oppose same-sex love,” she said.