Since its drubbing in the Nov. 29 elections, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) has been trumpeting the need for reform and communication with young people in the online community. However, words have been louder than actions taken so far. A few incidents have betrayed the party’s lack of understanding of what needs to be changed, or simply its lack of willingness to change.
President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) stepped down as KMT chairman days after the defeat and in a statement to the party said that, despite the rout, “the overall national route ... has not erred.”
Former Straits Exchange Foundation chairman Chiang Pin-kung (江丙坤), a former KMT chairman, called the defeat a consequence of “KMT supporters failing to turn out to vote” and said it had nothing to do with cross-strait policies. The subsequent Cabinet resignation turned out to be a minor reshuffling with only three people departing.
However, the most recent and ghastly of all the incidents — which was foreshadowed by the decision to keep Minister of Justice Luo Ying-shay (羅瑩雪), who has been castigated by civil groups because of her disregard for the rule of law and poor gender and human rights awareness — was a blatant exhibition of paternalism in the Ministry of Justice’s official statement regarding the marriage equality amendment and its dogged rebuff, which was supported by several KMT legislators’ preposterous remarks during Monday’s legislative question-and-answer session.
The ministry’s statement went against social and, most significantly, the young generation’s support of same-sex marriage.
While those opposed to same-sex marriage constantly base their opposition on the lack of social consensus and fear of social polarization — Deputy Minister of Justice Chen Ming-tang (陳明堂) cited “people against it taking to the streets” as an example — although results of a recent survey were conveniently overlooked. That survey says that more than 50 percent of Taiwanese support marriage equality, and that support leaps to 84.1 percent among those aged between 20 and 29. In the 30 to 39 age group, support is 70.6 percent.
The ministry’s report to the legislature on the legalizing of same-sex marriage was ridiculed by the media as “outright plagiarism of the Alliance of Religious Groups for the Love of Families Taiwan.” In its statement, the ministry made reference to the importance of traditional family relations, calling the proposed change to legislation “a violation of the principle of bloodline authenticity,” in regard to parent-child relationships, and even cited the potential loss of parents’ inheritance rights to their children’s same-sex spouse and adopted children as a reason to rally against the bill.
The ministry also denied that the difference in the legal marriage age for men and women, 18 and 16 respectively, was a form of discrimination against women, saying that raising the legal age for women was “restricting the rights of women under 18 to marry.”
The KMT caucus decided to back the ministry’s report, and some of its legislators voiced perverse comments about same-sex marriage, such as saying it would encourage zoophilia and it would reduce the already depressingly low birth rate.
It is disappointing that the KMT has rendered the divide on this issue — intentionally or not — a partisan one. While there surely are KMT lawmakers who are in favor of same-sex marriage, they failed to make their presence known.
The travesty has only substantiated young people’s belief that the KMT is an outdated party unable to catch up with progressive ideas, and it added fuel to efforts to recall three KMT legislators. It would not be hard for the flames to continue to burn until the presidential and legislative elections, which are little more than a year away.
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