Taiwan's top court has ruled that the country's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, in a landmark decision for LGBT rights in Asia.
The Constitutional Court ruling, handed down Wednesday, said the part of the Taiwanese Civil Code that banned two people of the same sex from marrying was in violation of the constitution.
"The provisions of Chapter 2 on Marriage of Part IV on Family of the Civil Code do not allow two persons of the same sex to create a permanent union of intimate and exclusive nature for the committed purpose of managing a life together," the decision read.
"The said provisions, to the extent of such failure, are in violation of both the people’s freedom of marriage as protected by Article 22 and the people’s right to equality as guaranteed by Article 7 of the Constitution."
The decision ordered the government to change the law to reflect the ruling of the court within the next two years, but said it was up to the government as to how this was done.
With the ruling, Taiwan is expected to become the first Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage, and the second in the Asia-Pacific region, after New Zealand in 2013.
As the decision was announced, cheers erupted from the crowds awaiting the decision outside the parliament.
The court made its decision after considering two different suits that questioned the constitutionality of a clause banning same-sex marriage in the Civil Code. One suit was brought by longtime gay activist Chi Chia-wei, who spent time in prison in 1986 when he came out as gay, and the other by the Taipei City government.
Chi, who has been fighting for marriage equality for over three decades, thanked all involved in the court proceedings at a press conference.
He called for “forgiveness, forgiveness, forgiveness, and communication, communication, communication” with anti–same-sex marriage groups.
In a press release outlining the reasons for the decision, the court said extending the freedom to marry to same-sex couples would contribute to a "stable society".
"The need, capability, willingness and longing, in both physical and psychological senses, for creating such permanent unions of intimate and exclusive nature are equally essential to homosexuals and heterosexuals, given the importance of the freedom of marriage to the sound development of personality and safeguarding of human dignity," it said.
"The current provisions of the Marriage Chapter do not allow two persons of the same sex to create a permanent union of intimate and exclusive nature for the committed purpose of managing a life together. This is obviously a gross legislative flaw."
The court said that if the government does not change the law within two years, same-sex couples will be allowed to register their marriages anyway.
On December 26, 2016, a draft bill for same-sex marriage passed a first reading in a Taiwanese parliamentary committee. Before it becomes law, it will be subject to party negotiations and must pass a second and third reading.
Online, people celebrated the historic decision.
"I'm so happy I'm crying."
"This is just making me cry."
"Every time I look at this, I cry."
"We can finally start preparing for our wedding."
"Love wins!!!!!!!!!!!! So happy!!!!!!!!!!!"
"A beacon of equality in Asia."
Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen, who supports marriage equality, wrote on Facebook that the ruling was not "a win or a lose," but "a moment to look at all those around us as our own brothers and sisters."
"Dear fellow people of Taiwan, the ruling is not a win or a lose. No matter what your stance is on the issue of same-sex marriage, this is a moment to look at all those around us as our own brothers and sisters," she wrote.
"Below is the Presidential Office's stance on today's ruling:
"First, the law should protect the freedom for marriage and equality for all. According to the constitutional system, the Constitutional Court's explanation of the ruling will be effective and binding for all the people and authorities in Taiwan.
"Second, the executive department will take into account today's decision and the opinions of all parties to submit a legal proposal as soon as possible for the Legislature to review. The third reading must be completed on time.
"Third, we call on all of society to treat others who may have differing opinions from our own with understanding, patience and respect. We believe that Taiwan is democratic enough to resolve disagreements and differences."
Taipei City Mayor Ko Wen-je also posted a status on Facebook, calling the decision "a historic moment."
"This is a historic moment. I often say, 'Don't be afraid of conflict, but we must have a mechanism to resolve this conflict.'
"The Taipei City Government called for an interpretation, and this is an attitude: A way to promote societal discussions, and to move towards progressive, meaningful attitudes."
Kassy Cho reported from Taiwan.