Sun, May 07, 2006 - Page 17 News List

Gay marriage isn't queer

Gay community members and activists campaign for the government to enshrine homosexuals' right to marry in legislation


A wedding photographer for 15 years, Chou Shang-hua (周尚樺) tied the knot with her sweetheart in an elaborate ceremony six years ago. The union was blessed by the families and friends of both partners. This most touching and sharing moment of their lives became a turning point in their careers as well, for it inspired Chou and her "wife" to open the Sunday Photo Studio (尚典攝影工作室), which provides wedding arrangements and photography services for gay couples who wish to enter into matrimony, even though same-sex marriage is still currently prohibited under Taiwanese law.

Over the past two years of operation, Chou said nine out of 10 of her clients were lesbian couples who wanted to express their love with the conventional trappings of marriage. She said that gay men were less willing to go public in this way as they are under more social pressure related to their "coming out."

Given the public's relatively conservative attitudes towards same-sex unions in Taiwan, the recent public wedding ceremony between Nelson Chen (陳敬學) and his lover A-wei was a significant event. It is only the third such public "marriage" between gay men in Taiwan. [The first was 10 years ago between writer Hsu You-sheng (許佑生) and his American partner.] Chen and A-wei's ceremony followed a big engagement ceremony on International Human Rights' Day last year that drew around 100 attendees, all of whom shared the same goal of raising public awareness about how

important it was to legalize same-sex marriage.

A full-time gay movement activist and the chairman of Taiwan's Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus (GLPC, 同志參政聯盟), Chen said by manifesting what belongs to the private domain on the level of the public sphere, he wants to challenge the traditional definitions of "family" and "marriage." He stressed that the primary aim of the nascent GLPC is to achieve the granting of the same legal rights to same-sex couples, as those granted to traditional unions between a man and a woman.

Legal Issues

Since 2001, the Ministry of Justice has been drafting a human rights basic law in which the most controversial stipulations are the abolition of the death penalty and recognition of same-sex marriage and homosexuals' rights to establish families and adopt children. The drafting of this law was first brought up in 2001, and international media immediately swooped on the news, eager to see whether or not Taiwan would become the first Asian country to legalize same-sex unions.

However, Wang Ping (王蘋), secretary-general of the Gender/Sexuality Rights Association in Taiwan (GSRAT, 台灣性別人權協會) that plays an active role in developing the draft law's contents, points out that the provisions of the draft are still under discussion, and are not scheduled to be put forward as a bill for another four years. Nevertheless, on the legal front, it is currently the only hope on the horizon for official recognition of same-sex unions.

To human rights groups and gay activists, there are two ways gay couples may achieve the same legal rights as heterosexual couples: one is to amend the marriage regulations under the Civil Law (民法), and the other to create a new law governing same-sex unions. It is commonly agreed that amending the Civil Law is less feasible as there will be more than 100 regulations to be amended and it will likely "hurt the feelings of conservatives," as Ashley Wu (巫緒樑), the director of public affairs at the Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline Association (TTHA, 同志諮詢熱線), said.

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