A lesbian couple tied the knot amid the blessings on monks and nuns in Taiwan's first high profile Buddhist same-sex wedding today.
In what is believed also to be the first such ceremony in Asia, Fish Huang and her partner of seven year You Ya-ting walked down the aisle in white bridal gowns this morning (11 Aug) in a monastery in Taoyuan, near Taipei.
Instead of exchanging rings, Huang and You helped each other wear prayer beads, after vowing to stay together for good. Nearly 300 Buddhists chanted sutras to seek blessings for the couple, both aged 30, who also worshipped the Buddha with the crown.
Shi Chao-hwei, the Buddhist master who had promptly agreed to preside the wedding of the devout couple, hailed it as a historic moment.
‘We are witnessing history,’ said the well-known advocate for social justice and Buddhist scholar. ‘The two women are willing to stand out and fight for their fate... to overcome social discrimination.’
While stressing Buddhism does not engage in ideological struggles, Shi played down criticisms that homosexuality is a sin, saying all lives are equal in the religion.
She has said there are elements of avidya (ignorance) in the love and lust in both heterosexuality and homosexuality, such that none is more sacred or superior to the other. Sublimation and control are what matter, according to her.
The newlyweds got to know each other from the internet and decided to become one after experiencing many ups and downs together.
Aiming to achieve equal rights, Huang said during the vegetarian wedding banquet that she would push for same-sex advocacy.
‘We are not only doing this for ourselves, but for our families and others who are suffering because of their sexual orientation,’ Huang said.
Despite supporting the marriage on the whole, the couple’s parents eventually decided not to attend the wedding yesterday to stay away from media spotlight.
Instead, actress Chu Hui-chen, whose lesbian daughter passed away weeks ago, made good her promise to support gay children and gave the newlyweds a pair of blessed bracelets.
'This is the first time, and there will certainly be countless of this in the future,’ said the self-styled 'Rainbow Mom', who tearfully told the couple she loves them.
In one of the very first moves of their fight for equality, the newlyweds are donating a large part of their cash gifts to Taiwan LGBT Family Rights Advocacy, the wedding organizer, after Shih turned down an offer to the monastery.
They had already written to President Ma Ying-jeou, urging him to look non-traditional families in the eye and legislate to protect same-sex marriages.
Taiwan's cabinet in 2003 drafted a bill to legalize same-sex marriage and allow homosexual couples to adopt children, but President Ma balked at it, citing the need for public consensus.
Earlier this year, gay rights groups drafted a new bill and urged him to push for its legislation before his term ends in 2016.
Watch a local news report of the wedding below: