Seven opposition legislators are pushing for “diverse family formation” through three proposals. Of them, the first proposal for marriage equality (婚姻平權草案), which aims to amend the Civil Code to legalize same-sex marriage, was the only one that passed the first reading at the Legislative Yuan. Although 22 legislators signed the draft to show their support, more legislators from the ruling and opposition camps are opposed to it.
Just before Human Rights Day, Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) said that since there was no consensus on the issue, it seemed it would be difficult for society to accept the proposal. Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) even published an editorial recently entitled “Taiwan is not ready for diverse family formation,” calling on opposition lawmakers to withdraw the draft act. Is Taiwan really not ready for this? The numbers speak for themselves.
Opinion poll results over the past few years show a constant increase in the support for same-sex marriage. According to a TVBS poll conducted in April last year, 49 percent of people actually supported gay marriage, while 29 percent opposed it. A China Times poll conducted in August last year showed that 56 percent supported it while 31 percent were opposed. A United Daily News poll conducted in the same year also showed that 55 percent supported it while 37 percent were opposed.
According to a survey published by Academia Sinica’s Institute of Sociology in April, 52 percent of respondents believed that homosexuals should be allowed to marry. The figure was close to that of a poll conducted by the Taiwan Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership Rights in August, which showed a support rating of 53 percent. To put it simply, a consensus leaning toward same-sex marriage is forming, and it is likely to eventually enter the mainstream.
It is interesting to note that in all polls, support among younger generations is much higher than in older generations. Take the TVBS poll for example: Those in their 20s and 30s were most supportive of same-sex marriage, with an approval rating above 60 percent. These poll results show that many Taiwanese, especially younger generations, are ready for gay marriage. Despite claiming that it respects human rights, President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration is not ready for this. When will it be?
The world was saddened by the recent death of former South African president Nelson Mandela. If, in the face of racial segregation, he took the passive approach and concluded that change was unnecessary because there was no consensus among all the different racial groups and that South Africa was not ready to move on, then his country would never have progressed.
Some local politicians and religious leaders mistakenly believe that homosexuality is a moral sin, but even Pope Francis has made repeated public calls for the church to accept homosexuality. He once said that, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” So who are those Taiwanese politicians and religious leaders to judge?
I do not expect Taiwan’s politicians and religious leaders to live up to the example of Mandela or the pope, but they must understand that “gay rights are human rights,” as former US secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton declared in a speech to the UN.
Our officials should change their passive attitude and take action to help the public understand the draft amendment, the related agencies should promote marriage equality through various activities, such as workshops for school teachers and civil servants, and the legislature should hold public hearings on the issue nationwide. Both the ruling and opposition parties should also communicate with their homophobic lawmakers so as to save their parties’ images.
Let’s get ready for a gayer, fairer and better society.
Chang Sheng-en is an assistant professor of English at Shih Hsin University.