Wed, Dec 12, 2018 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: New gay rights vows bear watching

After a tumultuous year for LGBTQ rights in Taiwan, there is finally some sort of timetable for same-sex marriage to be written into law after the Ministry of Justice on Wednesday last week announced that it would have a bill ready for the Legislative Yuan’s review before March 1.

However, under the Council of Grand Justices’ Constitutional Interpretation No. 748 last year, same-sex couples are to be able to register for marriage automatically from May 24. Is that really enough time for lawmakers to come to an agreement on the contents of the special law and pass three readings? The legislature was already having a difficult time agreeing to a law prior to the interpretation, which was meant to provide clarity on the nation’s direction on the issue.

However, things have become more confusing after the interpretation, as the government never took action, despite making multiple promises, clearly intending to drag the process on until the deadline. Meanwhile, the government’s delay allowed the groups opposed to marriage equality to mount a wildly successful campaign leading up to last month’s referendums, in which voters rejected same-sex marriage being included in the Civil Code.

Despite the Judicial Yuan confirming that a special law is to be made that would not contradict the constitutional interpretation, the government has gotten itself stuck between the majority opinion and the Constitution due to its failure to act and meet its promises. And this is a government that needs all the public support it can get after losing big in the Nov. 24 nine-in-one elections.

Of course, the Constitution trumps public opinion, but it is difficult to say what the contents of the special law will be like, and the public should be watching closely. If the legislature is unable to pass a law before May 24, same-sex couples can still get married under the Civil Code — but if the special law ends up being significantly different from the Civil Code, it will turn into a bureaucratic nightmare for everyone involved. In such a scenario, those who want to get married would try to do it as soon as possible, which would cause even further tumult.

There should be no more delays, and if the government has promised that the special law will not contradict the constitutional interpretation, it should keep that stance regardless of the referendum results and the words of the opposition, who will surely not back down in the next few months. If not, it would lose whatever credibility it has left.

If the government lets this turn into another battle that drags on once again, it would only give the groups opposing same-sex marriage more fodder to spread their disinformation, and they have the money and resources for a long-term siege — which would only hurt the LGBTQ community in the end while the results would remain the same. Why go through all the trouble and make yourself look even worse in the process?

Taiwanese should still feel proud that Taiwan is to be the first nation in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage — it is just that the whole ordeal has put a damper on the celebratory mood and society is obviously not as progressive as people might think.

In this case, same-sex marriage is already a given. However, more concerning is what will happen to education, which is the only way to change public sentiment. Gender equity education will be even more difficult after the referendums showed the public’s opinion, which might cause elected officials to be even more reluctant to speak out in support of the LGBTQ community, as that is apparently against the wishes of most of their constituents.

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