May 24 (UPI) -- Hundreds of same-sex couples got married in Taiwan on Friday, the first day it was legal.
Taiwan legalized same sex marriage May 17, allowing gay couples to have many of the same rights of inheritance and medical power of attorney that heterosexual couples have. Taiwan is the first Asian country to legalize gay marriage.
Gay rights activist Chi Chia-wei served as the witness for several couples who got married at the Household Registration Office at Taipei's Xinyi District. She donned a red coat with rainbow-colored stuffed animals pinned on it.
Hsiao Hsuan said he and his partner have been together for 12 years waiting for this day and were overcome with emotion.
"Being gay in Taiwan has not been easy. I feel lucky to have had the support of my friends, family and better half," Husan said at a news conference. "I waved a rainbow flag so hard throughout the [gay pride] parade, but I was too afraid to take it out on my way home. But today, I am able to say in front of all these people that I am gay and I am getting married. I am proud of my country."
Lesbian couple Yu Ya-ting and Huang Mei-yu had a Buddhist wedding ceremony in 2012 but it wasn't legally recognized by Taiwan.
"Our first marriage took place in 2012 and today is our second one," Huang said. "We now have the blessing not only of the gods, but also our parents and society."
Taiwanese voters approved a referendum in November to allow gay marriage and it went to the legislature in May.
An estimated 40,000 supporters gathered outside the legislature to celebrate the measure passing last week despite heavy rains. Many Taiwanese credit Australian Yes for its social media campaign, which provided the model for the "What Love Has Taught Us" campaign in Taiwan.
Twenty-seven countries worldwide recognize same-sex marriage but Australia and Ireland are the only other ones that had a public vote on it. The social media push was critical because conservative groups spent $40 million in an effort to defeat the campaign.
"It was very difficult, but we followed and learned from what the Yes campaigners did in Australia," Jennifer Lu, chief coordinator of Marriage Equality Coalition Taiwan, told the ABC.