Two Taiwanese plan to marry next month in a Buddhist ceremony, the first to celebrate a homosexual marriage, which remains officially prohibited in Taiwan, yet one of the most progressive countries in East Asia in terms of morals.

Fish Huang and You Ya-ting, both 30, will be blessed on August 11 by Master Shih Chao-hui at a Buddhist monastery in Taoyuan county in the north of the island, they said on Wednesday.

“After six years together, we want to make a lifelong commitment to each other,” Fish Huang told AFP.

Taiwan is one of the most advanced societies in East Asia, and gay groups have been calling for the government to legalize same-sex marriage for years.

A year ago, some 80 homosexual couples of both genders held a collective ceremony of mutual commitments, to attract the attention of the media and the public on the subject.

In 2003, the government had prepared a bill that legalized same-sex marriage and authorized adoption by couples thus formed, a first in Asia. But this controversial law was never presented to Parliament.

Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou says he respects same-sex couples but public opinion must be ready before this bill goes through parliament.

Master Shih Chao-hui, seen as a progressive within Taiwanese Buddhism, said the August ceremony would reflect the spirit of Buddhism.

“In fact, the teachings of Buddhism do not discriminate against gays and lesbians and do not consider human desire a sin, although they advocate moderation,” she says.

But senior Buddhist exponents in Taiwan have differing views on the matter.

“It’s true, the ancient scriptures of Buddhism don’t mention gay people, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that Buddhism endorses” homosexuality, said Master Huei Kai, a professor at Fo Guang University, Kaohsiung ( south of the island), to the United Daily News.

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