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Taiwan gay groups hold landmark rally for rights

October 31, 2003

TAIPEI — Taiwan's gay activists are to march in the capital city to fight descrimination and promote gay rights as the government mulls legislation to legalise gay marriage, officials said Thursday.

"At least 500 people from some 22 homosexual groups have registered to participate in the first march of its kind in Taiwan" on Saturday, Cheng Chih-wei, a member of the Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline Association, told AFP.

Some may wear masks while others clad in different dresses highlighting their different aims, he said.

The purpose of the march, called "Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights Movement," is to "declare to Taiwan the existance of gays and lesbians here," he said.

Cheng said they also seek a law against discrimination of homosexuals and for the protection of what he said were basic human rights, including gay marriage and the right of homosexual couples to adopt children.

The march would be the fourth homosexual activity to be sponsored by Taipei City Government's Bureau of Civil Affairs in as many years in a row.

The bureau said it hopes the march would help erode traditional hostility towards homosexuality in Taiwan "Through the march, we want to present the 'sunshine' side of homosexual to society...to let them be better understood by the general populace," said Li Ching-ling, an official of the bureau.

The bureau had sponsored sports and Karaoke singing contests, drawing at least 3,000 homosexuals and non-homosexuals each year.

The march comes as Taiwan's cabinet is drafting a controversial bill to legitimise gay marriages and abolish death penalty, an official said Monday.

If the laws are approved by parliament, Taiwan would be the first in Asia to legalise 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 doubted the government's sincerity in pushing for the legislation 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. –Sapa-DPA

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