Thu, Oct 20, 2016 - Page 8 News List

Death renews same-sex marriage calls

The death of Jacques Picoux, a retired French language and literature university lecturer and long-term Taipei resident who fell from his 10th-floor apartment on Sunday, has rekindled the online debate over the administration’s promise on same-sex marriage.

While the administration is still finding its way, it should start to take steps, however small, to implement its pledges for gender and sexual orientation equality.

President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) pre-election support for the legalization of same-sex marriage was remembered after the 67-year-old Picoux’s death.

Online speculation has been rife that his death was a suicide, linking the date to the first anniversary of the death of his long-term partner, Tseng Ching-chao (曾敬超), from cancer in October last year.

Picoux and Tseng had lived with for 35 years without legal recognition. However, the need for same-sex marriage was palpably felt when Picoux could not intervene in the decisions of Tseng’s family about medical treatment for Tseng or their home, which was in Tseng’s name, said former legislative candidate Lee Yen-jong (李晏榕), a former student of Picoux.

Author Chu Hsin-yi (瞿欣怡), who recently published a book about her daily life with her partner of 15 years, Grow Old Together,” criticized Taiwan for “calling itself gay-friendly, but only paying lip-service to supporting gay people while being unwilling to let loose, even a bit, regulations affecting gay rights.”

“It’s simply hypocrisy,” she said, condemning those politicians who have refused to back same-sex marriage due to “considerations of social perception.”

It is hard not to agree with Chu that many politicians are merely paying lip service to gay rights. True, several local governments have allowed same-sex couples to register their partnerships in their household registration, but such moves are purely symbolic, because they have little legal status compared with the fundamental legal protection provided to married heterosexual couples.

However, if the right to marriage equality is what Tsai supports, she must make moves to live up to her promises, be it a non-legally-binding mark on household registration documents or a “same-sex-partners” bill that the Ministry of Justice is mulling, even though it has been criticized as “segregation.”

The Democratic Progressive Party registered a group to walk in the Taiwan LGBT Pride parade on Saturday next week. The party is probably cringing now at the idea of walking with people and groups that doubt its commitment to Tsai’s promises. However, it would be worse if it had not registered at all.

It is what the DPP, now in control of the executive and the legislative branches of government, must squarely face. The government might consider it difficult pass a same-sex marriage bill, which would require an amendment to the Civil Code, but policy campaigning, advocating and education should not wait, especially when it believes that the “social perception” is a determining factor in whether sex and gender equality can be achieved.

One promising sign are Tsai’s nominees to the Council of Grand Justices and heads of the Judicial Yuan. According to a civil group’s review and the recent review hearings at the Legislative Yuan, six of the seven nominees voiced either passive or active support for same-sex marriage.

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