The nation's parliament passed a draft of a marriage equality bill on Monday. Opponents of the legislative change protested against the bill and called for a referendum.

Supporters of same-sex marriage take part in a rally outside the Legislative Yuan in Taipei, Taiwan, December 26.
Supporters of same-sex marriage take part in a rally outside the Legislative Yuan in Taipei, Taiwan, December 26.

Taiwan has moved a step closer to becoming the first Asian country to legalise same-sex nuptials after its parliament passed a draft of a marriage equality bill on Monday.

A legislative committee approved the amendment to the civil law allowing gay couples to legally marry. Lawmaker Yu Mei-nu of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), who proposed the bill, hailed Monday's decision as an example of Taiwan's "mature democracy" and called for calm and tolerance.

"It is not the end of the world to pass such a bill. Heterosexual marriages will not be destroyed... I hope everybody will take a calm and tolerant attitude," Yu told reporters.​

The amendments require further vetting before they can take effect, a process Yu estimated would take around six months.

Past attempts to legalise same-sex marriage stalled under the Kuomintang party, which dominated politics for decades until it was unseated by the DPP in this year's elections.

While support for marriage equality has gained momentum under President Tsai Ing-wen, who has openly supported legalising same-sex marriage, so too have opposing voices.

Opponents to the change rallied outside the parliament and demanded a referendum on the issue.

"Stop reviewing (the bill). Put it to a referendum," protesters shouted. Some demonstrators climbed over a wall into the parliamentary grounds and were later removed by police.

Both sides held rallies in the month leading up to Monday's decision, attracting tens of thousands of demonstrators.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies