Gay Taipei's calendar year is at its high point. It began when Mayor Ma Ying-jeou attended a rally by the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered) Civil Rights Movement outside City Hall on September 17. There he proclaimed that 'tolerance is a necessary virtue in any world-class city. Homosexuality is a natural phenomenon ... Gay rights are part of human rights. We want Taipei to be a multi-faceted city filled with love, peace and toleration'. Two weeks of public events will end on Saturday, with Taipei's annual gay pride march. That will be followed by the unofficial celebration of a number of gay marriages. Not everything in the gay garden is entirely rosy, however. True, Mr Ma's attendance at the rally - and his handing over of a rainbow flag donated to the event by San Francisco's mayor - was a unique event for Asia. But, at the same time, Taipei city withdrew the annual NT$1 million (HK$236,000) funding for gay rights events that it has donated since 2000. Activists were in addition angered by the city's Department of Civil Affairs deputy director, Yeh Jie-sheng, for saying his department would not promote same-sex marriages until they were legalised. Nelson Chen, who received a basket of flowers from Mr Yeh's department when he married his partner in a private ceremony last year, reacted angrily. 'Now [the department] says it doesn't support gay marriage, after being confronted by conservative groups,' he protested. It could be argued that Mr Ma, like many politicians, has an eye on future voters, and is trying to please gays and placate conservatives simultaneously. (Christian groups last month demanded the withdrawal of the city's funding of gay-related events on the grounds that gays did not procreate, and Premier Su Tseng-chang has vowed to promote family values). Mr Ma has consistently promoted Taipei as a world-class metropolis, but some gays doubt his sincerity. 'Progressive cities provide tolerant spaces for their gay citizens,' one graduate student told me. 'Now it's time for Ma to challenge himself and march alongside marginal, but decent, citizens. They, too, help provide the energy his city needs to progress.' But it seems clear that Mr Ma's thinking on gay issues was influenced by visits to San Francisco and Berlin. 'Two years ago I went to the Love Parade in Berlin,' he told the gay rights supporters on September 17. 'The mayor there, Klaus Wowereit, is gay and I got to talk to him for 10 minutes at the parade. Also, this year in San Francisco I met mayor Gavin Newsom. We talked about gay issues.' You'd think that any mayor who talks like this wouldn't be that bad an incumbent for Taipei's gays, even if his administration did cut its funding for the highlight of the gay calendar.