Wed, Aug 14, 2013 - Page 12 News List

Behind closed doors

The interior ministry’s ruling on transgender marriage is not a signal that gay marriage is around the corner

By Enru Lin  /  Staff reporter

All smiles.

Photo: Enru Lin, Taipei Times

When the news broke, Abbygail Wu (吳伊婷) was standing outside the Ministry of the Interior, holding photocopies of a press statement that detailed just what she thought of the officials inside.

“They decided the fate of our marriage in this closed-door meeting, without having consulted us. The government’s role should be to protect the people and act on behalf of the people. Why have they turned around and broken up a family? We don’t need this kind of government, and we think this decision is completely unfounded,” she wrote with her partner, Jiyi Wu (吳芷儀).

But in a verdict that caught the couple off guard, officials ruled to uphold their 10-month-old marriage. At 5:10pm, Victoria Hsu (許秀雯), director of the Taiwan Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership Rights (TAPCPR, 伴侶盟), who was representing their interests at the meeting, notified them via text message that officials had ruled in their favor. “I didn’t believe it until she came out and said it again,” said Abbygail Wu.

The decision recognizes the Wus — a transgender couple who are both registered as female — as lawfully wedded. LGBT activists and international media have lauded the decision, saying it will help push a gay marriage amendment that Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Cheng Li-chiun (鄭麗君) will introduce in September.

Hsu, who co-wrote the amendment draft, said she is very optimistic about the bill’s prospects. According to a TAPCPR survey conducted in June and July, over 50 percent of Taiwanese support gay marriage, and public support for LGBT rights are only strengthening over time, she said.

However, Hsu said that when deliberating over the Wus’ case, government officials made no concessions or new moves on gay marriage.

Last Wednesday, in her opening remarks, convener and Deputy Interior Minister Lin Tzu-ling (林慈玲) stressed that the agenda is “absolutely unrelated to the gay marriage issue, which is a matter for the Legislative Yuan,” Hsu said.

Hsu reported that during the three-hour discussion, one main argument against the marriage was that sanctioning it provides a loophole for same-sex marriage. For example, one woman in a lesbian relationship can apply for a sex change and then marry her partner, according to Hsu.

“This argument is based on the belief that many gay people would be willing to undergo an operation and live as another gender. In other words, these officials believe that homosexual orientation is the same thing as transgender identity. But for most gay people, that is not true,” she said.

Asked why the interior ministry made its about-face, Hsu responded that officials decided that they do not have a legal basis for marriage revocation. “I think the interior ministry is aware that it does not have the legal support to take away rights, and the reason is that there are no laws that govern sexual identification.

“In Argentina and the UK, there are laws. The point is not that they are liberal laws, though it is true that they are liberal. The point is that the laws exist,” she said.

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