EDITORIAL: Marriage equality bill handled well

Fri, Feb 22, 2019 - Page 8

The issue of legalizing same-sex marriage has been a political landmine that few expected the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration to defuse without severely injuring itself, particularly considering the deep ideological divide between the nation’s pro-LGBT community and those who regrettably voted for referendums against granting same-sex couples equal marital rights.

However, against all odds, the Executive Yuan managed to draw up a draft, albeit not a perfect one in the eyes of champions of marriage equality, but one that is good enough given the circumstances, according to reports about the bill’s contents.

It also cleverly handled most of the major disagreements between pro and anti-gay groups.

One element of the draft act that received immediate praise was its proposed name: “The enforcement act of Judicial Yuan Interpretation No. 748.”

After the results of the referendums on Nov. 24 last year determined that the government would have to draw up a new law — rather than amending the Civil Code — to protect the rights of people of the same sex to create a union, one of the main points of dispute was whether the new legislation should use a term that suggests equality, such as marriage, or one favored by anti-gay activists — partnership.

Rather than taking sides, the Executive Yuan decided to go with a more neutral appellation and name the draft after the ruling that created the need for a change to the law in the first place.

While at first glance the title appears to be a compromise from the perspective of the pro-LGBT community, it actually espouses the idea of equality, as what Interpretation No. 748 orders the authorities to do is to achieve “equal protection of the freedom of marriage.”

The use of the term “same-sex marriage” in the content of the bill also indicates the government’s effort to ensure true marriage quality.

The bill would confer almost all the rights that heterosexual couples enjoy under the Civil Code on couples of the same gender, including inheritance rights, medical rights and monogamy. The only disappointment is that it only allows same-sex couples to adopt children that are genetically related to either one of them.

Some netizens have dubbed the draft a “hyperlink” to the Civil Code, as several of its articles simply ask concerned parties to refer to the Civil Code when dealing with issues of marriage, adoption, inheritance, divorce and so on.

All in all, the bill has assuaged earlier concerns that a special law would subject same-sex couples to inferior legal rights, which could instill the dangerous idea that same-sex relationships are less worthy of recognition than heterosexual ones.

It has so far been strongly supported by young Taiwanese, with some commenting on Facebook that it made them want to vote for President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) again.

However, as the bill must still pass the Legislative Yuan, where most lawmakers are preparing to seek re-election next year, some of the articles could be revised to make it “less equal” in an effort to appease conservative voters.

It remains to be seen whether lawmakers can put aside their personal interests for once and work together to ensure the swift and smooth passage of a bill that would set the nation in the right direction.