Wed, Mar 13, 2019 - Page 8 News List

End discrimination in marriage

By Lung Weihsuan 龍煒璿

On Feb. 21, the Executive Yuan announced the draft enforcement act of the Council of Grand Justices’ Constitutional Interpretation No. 748. The bill is an attempt to pass dedicated legislation replicating the rights and obligations pertaining to heterosexual couples in the Civil Code in time to meet the May 24 deadline, when same-sex marriage will become legal by default based on the constitutional interpretation.

Prior to the announcement, local media reported the marriage of same-sex couple Taiwanese Chao Shou-chuan (趙守泉) and his British spouse, identified only as Andy, in Miaoli City in an attempt to challenge the discriminatory requirement in British immigration law for proof of financial support to issue a residence permit to an immigrating foreign spouse.

Although the reports focused on the 51-year age difference, the wedding could be held in Taiwan because the UK is one of the 52 countries whose citizens are allowed visa-exempt stays in Taiwan for up to 90 days.

In addition, the UK recognizes same-sex marriage, and once the enforcement act is passed and implemented, the couple can register their marriage at a local household registration office.

According to the Immigration Act (入出國及移民法), once their marriage is registered, Andy can obtain a dependent foreign resident permit, so if the British government does not give Andy a spousal residence permit, the couple can live in Taiwan.

Article 46 of the Act Governing the Choice of Law in Civil Matters Involving Foreign Elements (涉外民事法律適用法) states that “the formation of a marriage is governed by the national law of each party.”

If the second country in a cross-border marriage does not recognize same-sex marriage, will Taiwan still recognize it as legally binding?

There are only 25 countries that recognize same-sex marriage, and if the government rejects a marriage because the non-Taiwanese party in a same-sex couple comes from a country other than one of those 25, Taiwan’s promotion of equal rights for cross-border same-sex marriages will ring hollow.

The Ministry of Justice has admitted that it did not consider the complexities of cross-border marriages when planning the act, and it will be further reviewed by the Judicial Yuan.

Despite this government pledge, it must be remembered that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs holds its infamous overseas interviews with foreign spouses of Taiwanese coming from Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Bhutan and 17 other countries. People from these countries wanting to immigrate to Taiwan for marital reasons must go through an arduous interview process to obtain a Taiwanese visa.

This interview procedure is redolent with class discrimination and will pose a real challenge for cross-border same-sex marriages.

The foreign ministry started holding overseas interviews with citizens from these 21 countries in 2005 for fear that the US would lower Taiwan’s anti-trafficking ranking. This means that if a Taiwanese wants to marry someone from one of these 21 countries, the couple must first register their marriage in the non-Taiwanese spouse’s home country and then set up an interview with Taiwan’s legislation there.

Only after the interview has been completed and the marriage has been authenticated will Taiwan certify the required documents and issue a Taiwanese visa. The couple will have to spend time and money traveling back and forth and on other related expenses. If they abandon their marriage plans, they become another notch in the foreign ministry’s effort to prevent marriages of convenience and trafficking.

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