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2017-2019: 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

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 only 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. They do not have a Senate and House, like many other democracies have.

Webmaster's comment:

Archbishop Hung Shan-chuan is correct that the Bible only refers to marriage between one man and one or more women. During the approximately 1,000 years during which the Bible was written, most marriages mentioned there 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 recent concept.

A Christian anti-equality group, the Alliance for the Happiness of the Next Generation allegedly raised over U.S. $3.2 million in Taiwan, and funded ads on billboards and in newspapers to oppose allowing same-sex marriages to take place. 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 from other countries who are HIV-positive will flock to Taiwan and marry a man there so that they can make use of the free universal health care system. We have not been able to find references to this behavior 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 eventually make it legal for adults 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 to 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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2019-MAY-17: Taiwan legislature legalized same-sex marriages:

After about two decades of effort by LGBT equal rights activists to legalize same-sex marriages, success finally came. On Friday, MAY-17, Taiwan's legislature voted 66 to 27 to became the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriages. Two alternate, restrictive bills proposed by conservative groups were voted down. Thousands of Taiwanese supporters stood in pouring rain to celebrate the new law. Some waved rainbow flags.

Previously, Thailand had only partly moved in that direction by proposing a law to recognize civil partnerships.

If Taiwan's legislature not passed this law, then such marriages would have automatically become legal one week later due to a prior high court order of 2017-MAY-24.

Jennifer Lu is the coordinator of the rights group Marriage Equality Coalition Taiwan. She said that Taiwan has shown that:

"Traditional culture is not against LGBT culture. That’s the message we want to send to the world. ... I think the result is an accomplishment at this stage. But we will keep on fighting for full marriage rights." 8

Xiaogang Wei leads the Beijing Gender Health Education Institute in China. He said:

"It will have a very positive impact on China's LGBT community, offering us a lot of hope. The Chinese government has pointed to cultural tradition as a reason for same-sex marriage being unsuitable in China. But the decision in Taiwan, which shares a cultural tradition with us, proves that Chinese culture can be open, diverse and progressive.

President Tsai Ing-wen, of the Republic of China, tweeted that the bill was:

"... a chance to make history and show the world that progressive values can take root in an Asian society."

The new law does not grant full marriage rights to same-sex couples. It does not allow themto adopt non-blood relatives.

"AlphaDell" added a comment to the article in the Washington Post, saying:

"Gay rights / human rights keep growing and spreading around the world. ┬ Congratulations to Taiwan, ┬ Let's work to see marriage equality spread in Asia. ┬ Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, and more, free yourselves, and recognize your people's right to love."

"Blue Ghost" added a comment to the article:

"I hope there will be more nations following Taiwan's lead in same sex marriages & that Taiwan & other nations that don't allow same sex adoptions eventually allow them.

"Parrotkind" commented:

"The fact is that less [sic] people are marrying, because it is not a necessity for a happy and fulfilling life. People should be able to choose marriage or divorce, if that is what works for them. Life has a funny way of changing and things don't always work out as some would have hoped. The important thing is that humans should be able to make those decisions on their own, between the people involved, not the church or an oppressive government."┬ 8

Isabella Steger wrote in an article on Quartz listing:

Victoria Hsu, the executive director of Taiwan Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership Rights, said:

"We still have to fight for co-adoption rights and transnational marriages."

She, joined by her partner Chih-chieh Chien, was one of the first to marry on MAY-24.┬ 9

Ms. Steger wrote:

"... in Taipei’s Xinyi district, 20 gay couples took part in a group wedding ceremony called “the starting line of happiness.” They -- as well as Taipei’s black-bear mascot -- walked down a makeshift aisle on a rainbow flag in a park adjacent to the Taipei 101 skyscraper to cheering crowds that included diplomats from Canada and some European countries."┬ 9

The building, formally called the "Taipei World Financial Center is 508 metres/1667 feet high and was the tallest building in the world from the time it was opened in 2004 until 2010 when the Burj Khalifa was completed in Dubai, UAE.

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Support for same-sex marriage in other Asian countries:

Wikileak's 2020-SEP-18 update to their article "Recognition of same-sex unions in Asia" states that:

"In addition,┬ Israel┬ recognises same-sex marriages validly performed abroad, and same-sex marriages are legal in the UK sovereign base areas of┬ Akrotiri and Dhekelia┬ and the┬ British Indian Ocean Territory. Israel┬ recognises┬ unregistered cohabitation┬ for same-sex couples.┬ Several cities in┬ Cambodia┬ provide same-sex couples with some limited rights and benefits, including hospital visitation rights.┬ Some cities in┬ Japan┬ issue certificates for same-sex couples, however they are entirely symbolic.┬ In┬ Hong Kong, the same-sex partners of residents can receive spousal visas and spousal benefits. Cyprus┬ recognizes same-sex civil cohabitations.

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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/
  8. Nick Aspinwall, "Taiwan becomes first in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage," The Washington Post, 2019-MAY-17, at: ┬ https://www.washingtonpost.com/
  9. Isabella Steger, "The first same-sex marriages in Asia took place today, in Taiwan," 2019-MAY-24, Quartz, at: https://qz.com/

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Copyright ę 2018 to 2020 by the Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
Author: B.A. Robinson.
Originally posted on: 2018-NOV-29.
Most recent update: 2020-OCT-08

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