Don’t look to US on gay rights
Professor Chang Sheng-en’s (張聖恩) article “US lead in gay rights should be emulated” (July 1, page 8) only gets it half right. While we should laud the significance of the decisions in Hollingsworth v Perry and US v Windsor handed down by the US Supreme Court, we should be careful about heaping any praise on US President Barack Obama or attributing any sort of leadership to the US on the issue of LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) rights
Obama famously flip-flopped on the issue of same-sex marriage based on political expediency.
As a candidate for the Illinois Senate in 1996, he unequivocally supported same-sex marriage. By 2004, as he was rising up the political ranks and running for the US Senate, he stopped supporting same-sex marriage. Four years later, as a presidential candidate, he proclaimed that marriage should be a union between a man and a woman and adamantly held this position until six months prior to his re-election last year.
His latest “evolution” coincided with public opinion polls showing that a majority of Americans support same-sex marriage. Some commentators also believed the change was an attempt to energize the liberal base that has been disillusioned by his broken promises or compromises on immigration, Guantanamo Bay and healthcare reform, among other issues.
There is no doubt that LGBTQ rights are human rights and same-sex marriage should be legal in Taiwan. There is no doubt that former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) never attempted to deliver on their promises on gay rights. It is time LGBTQ people were afforded equal rights in Taiwan and the US Supreme Court cases may be good starting points to turn the empty talk into action.
However, we should hesitate to look to Obama or the US, where currently more than half of all states ban same-sex marriage, for leadership. The Netherlands, Belgium and certain parts of Canada had already legalized same-sex marriage in the early 2000s, when sex between consenting adults of the same gender was still criminalized in a handful of US states. Same-sex marriage is a fundamental right that needs no foreign inspiration, but if we insist on any type of leadership, it should not come from the US.
M. Bob Kao