Voters in Taiwan have rejected same-sex marriage in a series of referendums, one of which asked that marriage be restricted to one man and one woman, on Saturday.
The series of votes is a major setback to LGBT couples such as Jo Cai and her partner who were hoping to marry.
"The most difficult thing for us right now is that we don't have full legal rights and insurance benefits as an official couple," Cai said. "To be honest, the results came out as I expected because [Taiwan] is a traditionally conservative society, but I am still extremely disappointed."
Cai has been in a relationship with her girlfriend for almost three years. Although they were able to register as partners, they do not have the marriage benefits that opposite-sex couples do because they are not recognized as spouses by the law.
"If I get into a car accident and get sent to a hospital, my partner can only sign the medical papers that allow the hospital to perform emergency procedures on me," she explained "But if I need to get surgery, she doesn't have any rights to make those kinds of decisions for me."
Cai and LGBT advocates said they believed the younger generation in Taiwan is more open to LGBT couples, but that most of the older generation does not approve.
"[The older generation is] claiming marriage equality would affect Taiwan's fertility rate and destroy the traditional Chinese family structure," she said.
Citizens in Taiwan voted on five referendums related to LGBT rights, two with language in favor and three opposed. The referendums opposing same-sex marriage contradicted a May 2017 constitutional court ruling that favored same-sex marriage. It stated that banning LGBT couples from marrying violated the people's "freedom of marriage" and "right to equality".
"Sexual orientation is an immutable characteristic that is resistant to change," the court said in its ruling. "The freedom of marriage for two persons of the same sex, once legally recognized, will constitute the collective basis, together with opposite-sex marriage, for a stable society."
The court gave legislators two years to come up with laws to protect marriage freedom. Voters also approved a separate measure on Saturday asking for a different process other than the civil code to protect same-sex marriage.
Lance Chen-Hayes, a Taiwanese-American activist who identifies as gay and the parent of a queer, non-binary child, called the anti-LGBT referendums "discriminatory," but said the results will not affect marriage equality for the LGBT community required by the court ruling.
"Though the legislature may have to set up a 'special law' to grant same-sex couples marriage benefits, the legislation takes time and it may not be completed by May 24, 2019," he said. "If there's no legislation in place by that date, same-sex couples will be able to [marry]."
In addition to the traditional marriage referendum, voters also approved a separate referendum on Saturday asking that schools avoid teaching LGBT "education."
"The anti-LGBT organizations want to remove LGBT curriculum from the gender equity curriculum because they realize the young generation has become a lot more open-minded to LGBT people," Chen-Hayes said. "They want to tackle the root of LGBT acceptance."
Chen-Hayes said the LGBT community is not happy with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, who campaigned on a promise of marriage equality in the 2016 general election but has not taken any actions to fulfill that promise because there is no "consensus" in the country.
"The government needs to have the determination to lead the country in the right direction. You don't need 'consensus,' especially when we're talking about human rights and equality," he said. "[LGBT] rights are not being protected. They are being harmed."
According to Joyce Teng, the deputy coordinator of Marriage Equality Coalition Taiwan, the division of the country and referendum voting results can weaken regulations on LGBT rights.
"We have to have more than 5 million 'Yes' votes than 'No' votes to have a referendum to win," she said. "If we lose, [anti-LGBT has] more power to influence the legislation body."
Teng said the driving forces behind the anti-LGBT community are powerful Christian groups that were able to garner large amounts of campaign finance.
"Our Christian population is around five to ten percent, so there is not quite a lot of opposition towards same-sex marriage," she said. "But they use aggressive techniques and fake news to attack the society and [stir up] everyone's anxiety towards the LGBT community."
Coalition for the Happiness of our Next Generation is the organization that proposed the anti-LGBT referendums.
"The victory belongs to all people who value family and the education of the next generation," the organization said in an official statement.
Happy Coalition also said it will set up a "law amending group" to urge the government to respect public opinion based on the referendum results to amend the court ruling on same-sex marriage. We reached out to the organization, but did not receive any response.
Despite the voting results, there is still much support for the LGBT community in Taiwan. In fact, Taiwan's capital Taipei held Asia's largest gay pride parade last month, with over 130,000 attendees.
Jo Cai said her own parents initially opposed the concept of same-sex couples, but gradually came to accept it because they realized same-sex couples were capable of providing the same love, care and support that a man and a woman could.
"We shouldn't give up and we are actually very lucky because the LGBT community is very united and we are confident that our message of love will prevail and be accepted by the public in the future," Cai said.