The battle over the proposed same-sex marriage act is heating up, with various groups for and against the measure taking to the streets for rallies in Taipei yesterday.
The proposed amendments to the Civil Code, presented by Democratic Progressive Party legislators Cheng Li-chun (鄭麗君) and Yu Mei-nu (尤美女), ask for the legalization of same-sex marriage, civil partnerships and family diversity.
The Legislative Yuan’s decision last month to refer the proposed amendments to the Judiciary and Organic Laws and Statutes Committee for further discussion excited supporters of the draft act, who say that marriage is a basic human right.
The development infuriated conservatives and some religious groups, who jumped to defend traditional family values, arguing that the legalization of same-sex marriage will encourage adultery, incest and group sex.
However, many government officials have avoided taking a clear stance on the issue. President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), while defending his long-standing efforts to promote gay rights since the start of his term as Taipei mayor, said the proposed act would bring about drastic changes to the traditional marriage system, family values and social foundations. He added that a social consensus is required to change legislation.
Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) said that the draft act should be suspended because “Taiwan is not ready for such diverse family formations.”
Same-sex marriage is a major social issue with generational and partisan divides — even in Western countries — and the road toward the proposed changes to the law, which would promote a diverse range of family types, will be filled with obstacles in a society that has not been able to accept the decriminalization of adultery.
The proposed legislation gave the nation an opportunity to ponder the issue of same-sex marriage and move to eliminate discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
Taipei has been the venue for an annual gay pride parade since 2003 as part of the gay rights movement sponsored by the Taipei City Government. The movement represents a cooperative effort by the government and civic groups to promote gay rights and celebrate diversity in the city.
Working for equal rights is not easy and requires strong leadership, but as a former Taipei mayor who took pride in promoting gay rights parades in the city, Ma should not avoid addressing this contentious issue.
Besides encouraging rational dialogue on same-sex marriage and patiently forming a social consensus, his administration should embrace the expansion of equal rights.
It may be years before Taiwan accepts same-sex marriage and grants gay and lesbian couples the legal right to marry. However, the Ma administration should lead the effort to eliminate inequalities in the system and prepare Taiwan for more equal rights measures, including legislation in support of same-sex marriage.