Sun, Nov 06, 2016 - Page 6 News List

EDITORIAL: Support leans toward gay marriage

In response to Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Pasuya Yao’s (姚文智) question on Monday regarding the government’s stance on three Civil Code marriage equality amendment proposals, Executive Yuan Secretary-General Chen Mei-ling (陳美伶) said that Premier Lin Chuan (林全) has urged the Ministry of Justice to take action and has expressed support for legalizing same-sex marriage.

That was the executive branch of the central government for the first time formally supporting the legalization of same-sex marriage, which has received broad support from across party lines.

There are three proposed amendments to the Civil Code. The first comes from the New Power Party, which asked for changes to the family relations section of the code, in addition to revisions of the Family Act (家事事件法). The second was a motion supported by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Jason Hsu (許毓仁) regarding parts of the code related to family relations and inheritance. The third was submitted by DPP Legislator Yu Mei-nu (尤美女).

While national recognition of same-sex partnerships requires a revision to the code, there are 11 cities and counties that already recognize same-sex partnerships in their household registration systems: the six special municipalities and Chiayi City, as well as Yilan, Hsinchu, Changhua and Chiayi counties.

Despite an encroaching sense of disillusionment among many in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community about President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) silence on the issue since taking office, Tsai has publicly supported same-sex marriage in the past, including at the Taiwan LGBT Pride Parade last year.

The legalization of same-sex marriage and marriage equality are contentious issues in which the government of a democratic nation should represent all voices. Many remain opposed to the idea, notably among Christian groups, and of course it is important, with an issue as substantive, emotive, contentious and momentous as this, that all voices are heard and that the public enter into a rational debate on it.

However, it is difficult to argue with the fact that Taiwanese society is increasingly supportive of marriage equality. In 2013, a poll by the Policy Research Association showed that 53.7 percent of respondents agreed that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry. Two years later, a Ministry of Justice poll revealed that 71 percent of respondents supported a same-sex marriage act.

According to reports, more than 50,000 people attended the Taiwan LGBT Pride Parade in 2012, rising to 70,000 in 2014 and 80,000 last year.

Same-sex marriage is legal in Belgium, the UK, Ireland, Norway, Denmark, Spain, Sweden, the US, New Zealand, France and Uruguay, among other countries. If it were to be made legal here, Taiwan would become the first Asian nation to legalize same-sex marriage, and would be, once again, a beacon of human rights and universal values in Asia.

It is an important decision. If the government decides for legalization, it is not something that can be rolled back. It is not about trying out the optimum level of tariffs to be applied to certain products, or about tweaking rules and regulations in a certain sector. It is about people’s lives, and their plans and expectations. It is about how they identify themselves and the rest of society, and their perception of their identity in society, for both sides of the argument. It is about the direction that society takes.

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