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2017-8: Same-sex marriage in Taiwan

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2017-MAY-24: Taiwanese Constitution Court decision:

The high court in Taiwan issued a ruling stating that a ban on same-sex marriages is unconstitutional. It gave the government two years in which to amend the law and legalize marriage equality for persons of all sexual orientations. 1

At the time of the ruling, there were no countries in Asia that had legalized same-sex marriages. 2 This is also the situation in late 2018.

The court issued a press release saying:

"... disallowing two persons of the same sex to marry, for the sake of safeguarding basic ethical orders [constituted a] /... different treatment ... [with] no rational basis. ... Such different treatment is incompatible with the spirit and meaning of the right to equality [as protected by Taiwan's constitution]." 2

About 70% of Taiwanese adults are almost evenly split between followers of Buddhism and Taoism. Christianity is the largest of the minority religions at 3.9%. 3

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2018-NOV-24: A referendum was held in Taiwan on same-sex marriage:

Christians in the country were divided. More liberal religious leaders favored equality, while Roman Catholic Archbishop John Hung Shan-chuan of Taipei promoted Pope Francis' statements about the LGBT community, saying:

"The pope means that we respect gay people as they are also our brothers and sisters. But the teaching of God about marriage is composed of one man and one woman and the church doesn't change this position. We do not discriminate against gays and are willing to protect their certain rights, but we cannot support same-sex marriage and same-sex union. ... During the review of the Civil Code by the Legislative Yuan,* I have clearly stated the attitude of the Catholic Church: the legalization of same-sex marriage and same-sex union is not in line with our teachings. We accept gay people, but it does not mean we endorse all their actions; just as a mother accepts her child but may not agree with the child's behavior or meet all his requirements."

* The "Legislative Yuan" is the unicameral legislature of the Republic of China in Taiwan.

Webmaster's comment:

Archbishop Hung Shan-chuan is correct that the Bible only refers to marriage between one man and one or more women. At that time, most marriages in the Bible were between one woman and one man. However, there were dozens of polygamy among high profile persons that are mentioned in the Bible. Solomon, for example, had 700 wives of royal birth along with 300 concubines. However, same-sex marriage is not mentioned. The last book in the Bible was written in the second century CE almost two thousand years ago. Same-sex marriage is a very recent concept.

A Christian anti-equality group, the Alliance for the Happiness of the Next Generation allegedly raised over U.S. $3.2 million and funded ads on billboards and in newspapers to oppose same-sex marriages. 4

Massive levels of misinformation were spread about same-sex marriage:

  • "Line," a Japanese chat app that is popular in Taiwan, published a message titled: "Strange! Why do they want to rush to legalize same-sex marriage?" It suggested that if same-sex marriage is legalized, then homosexual men who are HIV-positive will flock to the country and marry a man there so that they can make use of the free universal health care system. This result has never been reported in other countries like Canada, France, Holland, the UK, and 23 others, when marriage equality was attained.

  • Pamphlets from a conservative group warned that legalizing same-sex marriage would make it legal to have sex with minors under 16. They said that voting in favor of marriage equality means:

    "... paving the way for pedophilia. ... Children are the treasure of the country’s future, what kind of parent would want this to happen?" 6

The referendum asked voters to answer a total of seven questions:

  • Three were placed on the ballot by persons who opposed marriage equality; they all passed. The main one was:

    "Do you agree that Civil Code regulations should restrict marriage to being between a man and a woman?"

  • Two would have ended marriage discrimination against the LGBT community and would have added "gender equality education covering LGBTI rights" in schools. Both failed to pass. One asked if civil code marriage regulations should:

    "... guarantee the rights of same-sex couples to get married."

Commentators differed in their opinion whether the result of the referendum negated the earlier court ruling:

  • Graeme Reid, the director of the LGBT rights program at Human Rights Watch -- a leading international pro-equality LGBT agency -- tweeted:

"Disappointing measure of public opinion in #Taiwan referendum does not absolve lawmakers from enacting legislation -- per Constitutional Court ruling -- to allow same-sex partners to marry."

  • A legal expert insisted it was:

    "... up to lawmakers' [to decide] how they dealt with the result."

  • Taiwan Suki Chung, Amnesty International's regional campaign manager for Taiwan, tweeted:

    "The government must legislate for equality of marriage by 2019 to comply with the Constitutional Court's decision." 4

  • Annie Huang who heads Amnesty International in the country said:

    "This result is a bitter blow and a step backwards for human rights in Taiwan. However, despite this setback, we remain confident that love and equality will ultimately prevail. The result must not be used as an excuse to further undermine the rights of LGBTI people. The Taiwanese government needs to step up and take all necessary measures to deliver equality and dignity for all, regardless of who people love. 4

  • Mike Zhang, a 25-year-old project manager in Taipei, said:

    "We thought we lived in a progressive and open country. But after seeing the disparity in this referendum we discovered we were living in a place that we didn’t recognize." 5

However, a "... ballot initiative that would allow same-sex couples to enter a civil union separate from 'marriage as defined by the Civil Code' was approved with 6.4 million yes votes." 5

The government has announced that it will still proceed with new equality legislation. However, the new laws may be weaker because of the referendum. Some in the LGBT community expect that the government will amend the current marriage law to allow same-sex couples can marry, but not necessarily give such couples equality with opposite-sex couples in matters of adoption, parenting, inheritance, and making decisions for each other during medical emergencies. 2

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More developments are expected in the future.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Dorothy Cummings McLean, "Taiwan votes against same-sex ‘marriage,’ but leaders may enforce it anyway," Life Site News, 2018-NOV-26, at: https://www.lifesitenews.com/
  2. "Taiwan's top court rules in favour of same-sex marriage," BBC, 2017-MAY-24, at: https://www.bbc.com/
  3. "Religion in Taiwan," Wikipedia, as on 2018-NOV-25, at:
  4. Hira Humayun and Susannah Cullinane, "Taiwan voters reject same-sex marriage," CNN World, 2018-NOV-25, at: https://www.cnn.com/
  5. Chris Horton, "Taiwan Asked Voters 10 Questions. It Got Some Unexpected Answers," New York Times, 2018-NOV-26, at: https://www.nytimes.com/
  6. Isabella Steger, "How Taiwan battled fake anti-LGBT news before its vote on same-sex marriage," Quartz, at: https://qz.com/
  7. Angela Lu Fulton, "Taiwan votes to keep marriage laws traditional," Baptist Press, 2018-NOV-28, at: http://www.bpnews.net/

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Copyright 2018 by the Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
Author: B.A. Robinson.
Originally posted on: 2018-NOV-29.

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