Taiwan gay marriage: Hundreds of couples tie the knot on historic day

Hundreds of gay couples in Taiwan have rushed to get married on Friday - the first day a landmark decision that legalised same-sex marriage took effect.

Taiwan became the first country in Asia to allow same-sex marriage last week in a legislative vote on a cause that the island's LGBT rights' activists have championed for two decades.

A household registration office in central Taipei was packed as couples seized the earliest opportunity to tie the knot.

Jubilant couples held bouquets of flowers and posed for photos, smiling and kissing.

"The legalisation of marriage is only the first step," said a 48-year-old novelist who writes under the pen name Chen Hsue.

"In the future, through this legalisation, I hope LGBT people could be accepted as ordinary people by Taiwanese society."

Taiwan's officials said 500 same-sex couples registered their marriages across the island on Friday.

A Taipei resident said tearfully that he and his partner feel lucky that they are able to announce in front of everyone that they are gay.

The two men wore matching pastel pink suits and stood in front of a rainbow display featuring messages blessing the newlyweds.

Several couples requested that their real names not be made public because they fear the stigma that still exists around being gay in Taiwan.

In 2017, the democratic island's constitutional court declared same-sex couples had the right to legally marry, and set a deadline of 24 May, 2019, for the law to be formalised.

Taiwan's acceptance of gay and lesbian relationships began in the 1990s when leaders in today's ruling Democratic Progressive Party championed the cause to help it stand out in Asia as an open society.

Vietnam lifted a ban on same-sex marriage in 2015, however that is seen as purely ceremonial as they are not offered the same legal protections available to opposite-sex couples.

Although claimed by China as its own territory, Taiwan is a self-governing democracy with a vibrant civil society.