>> A major blow for gay rights campaigners in Taiwan on Saturday as voters there were set to back a referendum that defines marriage as between a man and a woman. That decision has knocked Taiwan's reputation for liberalism in Asia. The island hosts the region's largest annual gay pride parade showcasing its LGBT community.
Last year, the constitutional court declared same sex couples had the right to legally marry, and set a two year deadline for legislation. But the election authority approved voting petitions from both conservative and rights groups on the issue anyway, and it was the gay rights activists who lost. The conservative group Coalition for the Happiness of Our Next Generation hailed it as a victory for all people who care about traditional family values and education of Taiwan's next generation.
Those fighting for gay rights and marriage equality called the referendums unconstitutional. Still the government has said the referendum doesn't challenge last year's constitutional court ruling on same sex marriage, but authorities are now expecting to enact a special law on same sex unions. The poll also presents a challenge to President Tsai Ing-wen.
Activist say she's backed away from her promise to marriage equality made in the run up to elections in 2016. But Saturday was also a personal disaster for her. She stepped down as chairwoman of the ruling pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party following a major defeat. On Saturday, her party lost two of the island's most important city posts in mayoral elections, Taichung and Kaohsiung.
Both were won by the China-friendly opposition Kuomintang. And the results coming just over a year before Taiwan's next presidential election are likely to please China, which claims Taiwan as its own and has ramped up pressure on Tsai and her administration.