A group calling itself the Alliance of Religious Groups for the Love of Families Taiwan held a press conference at the Legislative Yuan on Wednesday to denounce efforts to legalize same-sex marriage. However, what came across in statements was an appalling amount of claptrap and intolerance.
While everyone has the right to their own view on what does or should constitute a legal marriage, the pronouncements made by some of the religious representatives should not go unchallenged, especially because they fall into the same broad categories used by bigots of all stripes worldwide.
The first of these fallacies was “the end of civilization as we know it” warning. Unification Church Taiwan vice president Paul Chang (張全鋒) said legalizing same-sex marriage “is a downward step that will lead to the collapse of civilizations.” This warning is almost as old as time itself and is used for every manner of dire predictions. Civilizations do collapse, but as a result of a combination of factors including environmental and climate changes, hostile neighbors and social or cultural problems.
Lutheran Bishop Chen Chih-hung (陳志宏) raised the issue of family lineage and Taiwan’s declining birthrate, asking: “Would you like to see the birthrate continue to decline due to same-sex marriage?” and “If your child or grandchild told you that he or she is homosexual and your family lineage would end with them, could you accept it?”
Taiwan does have one of the lowest birthrates in the world and this has been the cause of much angst. The fertility rate fell to 0.9 births per woman in 2011, before rebounding to 1.265 at the beginning of this year, a bump that the Ministry of the Interior attributed to government policies such as subsidies and expanded preschool and daycare centers, and to the last lunar year being the Year of the Dragon, which is considered an auspicious time to give birth.
Women are choosing to have fewer children because of greater education and job opportunities for them, rising costs of education and living, lack of affordable childcare and other socio-economic factors. Same-sex unions are not a factor. Pressure from parents on their descendants can be intense, but that does not always lead to good marriages or children. Being gay also does not mean you cannot procreate or be a good parent.
Buddhist master Shih Ching-yao (釋淨耀) also focused on the need for families that produce children, which he termed both a duty and the basis of social stability. He probably did not intend to introduce a note of levity to proceedings by adding: “People should not sacrifice this important moral value just because they want to enjoy sex.”
In case these warnings were not enough to cause panic, Chang came out with several non sequiturs, such as “legalizing same-sex marriage is legalizing adultery, incest and group sex,” that the gay rights movement just wanted to create more homosexuals through group sex, and that children raised in same-sex families are more likely to become criminals or victims of sexual violence.
About the only positive thing to say about his fantasies is that at least he did not raise the possibility of same-sex marriages leading to human-animal marriages, as some politicians in the US have done.
Then Chen said: “Would you like to see more people being infected with AIDS due to same-sex marriage?” This was another non sequitur, as research reports have noted that while more than 90 percent of the people known to have HIV in Taiwan are male, since the mid-2000s, intravenous drug users have accounted for more than 50 percent of the new cases.
There should be a rational debate over whether to legalize same-sex marriage, just as there should be for any major change to the legal system. However, little of what was on display at the alliance’s press conference could be called rational. Despite the group’s name, there was also very little love.