Earlier this year, I attended the wedding of my schoolmate at a five-star hotel in Taipei. Just like any other wedding, this one was filled with much laughter and tears of joy. The only exception was that this wedding was between two men.
“After being together for a long time, our desire for a home had grown stronger and stronger. So this is a dream come true,” said the man, surnamed Shih (石), who wishes to remain anonymous.
In 1999, Shih met his “Mr. Right” while studying at a university in San Francisco. Although he returned to Taipei after graduation, their romance continued. After keeping the long-distance relationship for almost 15 years, they eventually married in the US and held a public wedding in Taiwan.
“Since holding a gay wedding was unimaginable in the past, we originally didn’t dare to pursue this dream. But after witnessing some gay friends marrying in the US, we started to discuss the possibility of getting hitched,” Shih said.
“We also held the banquet publicly to please our parents... which symbolized that their kids have grown up and are moving toward the next stage in their lives. We just wanted to prove that this relationship was serious, and stop our parents from worrying,” he added.
Rob Lo (羅毓嘉), a gay writer, was tearful during the event because it reminded him how grateful he was for his own family’s unconditional love and support.
“Wouldn’t the world be a better place if every homosexual could grow up in a caring and supportive family without being bullied or discriminated against?” he said. “I was deeply moved by the wedding, especially when the couple offered tea to their parents during the tea-offering ceremony. How wonderful it was for them to receive the blessing from both families,” he added.
Unfortunately, same-sex marriage is not legally recognized in Taiwan, although studies show that the percentage of people who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) is around 3.5 to 5 percent of the population. In other words, among the 23.4 million Taiwanese, up to around 1.2 million non-heterosexuals are deprived of their right to marry on the basis of their sexuality.
In the past, homosexuality was a taboo in Taiwan. But recent polls show that attitudes are changing. Last year, a poll conducted by Academia Sinica showed that 52 percent of those polled support gay marriage, while a poll conducted by the Taiwan Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership Rights showed that 53 percent support it. A 2011 CommonWealth Magazine poll even showed that 67 percent support same-sex unions. And since support is much higher among Taiwan’s younger generation, it’s just a matter of time before a same-sex marriage bill is passed.
GAY RIGHTS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS
However, opposition remains, most apparent with last year’s rally against revising Article 972 of the Civil Code — which would change the term “man and woman” to “two parties” in the article concerning marriage and the term “father and mother” to “parents” in the Civil Code — when religious groups mobilized tens of thousands to protest in front of the Presidential Office. They claimed that same-sex unions will threaten human society and family values. It’s an argument that Shih disputes.
“A marriage brings greater responsibility. It is the union of two families after all, not just the people getting married, and I have become more mature and responsible. I finally have a real home,” he said.