Sun, Jun 28, 2015 - Page 12 News List

Taipei Watcher: It’s only a matter of time

Friday’s historic decision by the US Supreme Court legalizing same-sex marriage bodes well for Taiwan’s LGBT community, and dismisses the argument that religious values may dictate public policy

By Eddy Chang  /  Staff reporter

The White House is illuminated in rainbow colors after Friday’s historic Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage.

Photo: Reuters

In an effort to promote equal rights, the Kaohsiung City Government launched its “sunshine registration” (陽光註記) policy last month, a scheme that allows unofficial registration of same-sex couples at its household registration offices. Although the measure is not legally binding, it set a good example for other cities and counties.

Encouraged by Kaohsiung, the Taipei City Government adopted a similar measure starting June 17, while taking a step further by negotiating with the Ministry of Health and Welfare to allow registered couples to make medical decisions for their partners. It also announced the inclusion of same-sex couples in the city’s public mass weddings starting this summer.

Both Kaohsiung and Taipei deserve applause. After fighting for the rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders (LGBT) since the mid-1980s, Taiwan’s gay rights movement has finally made a substantial breakthrough this year.

EQUAL IN THE EYES OF THE LAW

Meanwhile, the LGBT community in the US is celebrating a historic ruling the Supreme Court issued on Friday guaranteeing a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.

“This ruling is a victory for America,” said US President Barack Obama in response to the 5-4 ruling, while Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority that “[n]o union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family.”

“It feels so good to be treated equal,” Jonathan Hao, a Taiwanese-American gay man who resides in San Francisco, told Taipei Watcher. Hao plans to celebrate the big moment with some Taiwanese friends at the pride parade of the world’s gay capital this weekend.

A TOUGH JOURNEY

It has been a tough journey for the US gay rights movement since it began calling for equal rights. After decades of suppression, a series of street demonstrations broke out against police raids that took place in 1969 at Stonewall Inn, a famous gay bar in New York. This key event served as a catalyst to a more active gay rights movement.

In recent decades, the movement has come a long way. A national debate on same-sex marriage began in 1996 because of a legal challenge to Hawaii’s ban on such unions. A 2003 court ruling made Massachusetts the first state to grant marriage rights to same-sex couples. After the US Supreme Court made two landmark rulings to support gay rights in 2013, acceptance of marriage equality reached a new high of 61 percent in a recent poll.

TAIWAN LAGS BEHIND

As we applaud the US ruling, it is worthwhile to look back at the evolution of Taiwan’s gay rights movement. During the Martial Law era, most Taiwanese refused to broach what was at the time considered a sensitive topic. This began to change with the publication of Kenneth Pai’s (白先勇) Crystal Boys (孽子, literally: “sons of sin”). The novel is about Taipei’s gay community, and was serialized in 1977 and published in 1983. It is written by a gay man and is widely recognized as a classic of Chinese-language gay literature.

Since the 1990s, more LGBTs have started to come out. In 1993, National Taiwan University (NTU) established the NTU GayChat (台大男同性戀社), the nation’s first gay student club. Three years later, Taiwanese writer Hsu Yu-sheng (許佑生) and his American partner Gary Harriman held the first public same-sex wedding, while some politicians made campaign promises sympathetic to the LGBT community to attract votes.

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