Wed, Dec 05, 2018 - Page 13 News List

Not the end of the rainbow

Despite the setback to the LGBTQ community in the Nov. 24 referendums, activists say that it has brought the conversation around LGBTQ rights to the forefront and given them impetus to forge ahead

By Han Cheung  /  Staff reporter

The Marriage Equality Coalition Taiwan makes a statement on the night of the referendums.

Photo Courtesy of The Marriage Equality Coalition Taiwan

Jennifer Lu’s (呂欣潔) first thought upon hearing the results of last month’s referendum on marriage equality was, “We can’t let [the LGBTQ] community lose hope.”

After intense campaigning on both sides, voters on Nov. 24 overwhelmingly rejected same-sex marriage.

Last week, Judicial Yuan Secretary-General Lu Tai-lang (呂太郎) said that any law following the passage of referendums on marriage equality could not contradict last year’s constitutional interpretation by the Grand Council of Justices, which requires regulations protecting marriage equality to be introduced by next May.

Nonetheless, the referendum process and results have already taken a toll on the LGBTQ community. There are reports of increased bullying in schools, rifts between family members and friends and even cases of self-harm and suicide, as reported by Lu, coordinator of the Marriage Equality Coalition Taiwan, and Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Yu Mei-nu (尤美女).

“Many votes were likely cast out of a lack of understanding of the issue, and not out of anti-LGBTQ sentiment. It doesn’t mean that there are that many people out there who hate you,” Lu told the Taipei Times, but the referendum has revealed societal conflict and the fracturing of values.

STAYING POSITIVE

Lu says that in the past, many people were simply ignorant or ambivalent about marriage equality. With the attention generated by the referendums, voters were not able to ignore the issue anymore. They had to consider how they felt about it, even if they ended up abstaining from the vote.

“This is the first time LGBTQ issues have been discussed on such a large scale in Taiwanese society,” Lu says.

Despite all the excitement following the landmark constitutional interpretation last May, Lu and other LGBTQ activists were not surprised by the referendum results.

In early November, they noticed that polls, which were split down the middle just a few months ago, were starting to skew in favor of anti-marriage equality groups like the Happiness of the Next Generation Alliance.

Lu attributes the change in public opinion to the aggressive airing by these groups of disinformation commercials, noting that they appeared almost every hour all day in November.

Lu says that there were probably many undecided voters manipulated by false information and fear of the effects that same-sex marriage and LGBTQ-related topics in gender equity education would have on their children.

“Think about who gets most of their information from television these days. It’s the more traditional, often older demographic,” she says.

Jay Lin (林志杰), CEO of Portico Media and founder of LGBTQ movie platform GagaOOLala, agrees that ignorance led to the results.

“It’s not, in my opinion, ingrained, institutionalized hatred,” Lin says. Instead, people are worried about the impact that same-sex marriage will have on Taiwanese society, as they have had little exposure to it.

Achieving equality takes time, as evidenced by other human rights movements around the world. When it comes to marriage equality, Taiwan is still the most progressive country in Asia, on track to become the first to legalize same-sex marriage. The conversation now is not whether same-sex marriage will be legalized, but what form the laws legalizing same-sex marriage will take.

Many young people had high expectations and were hurt by the referendum results, Lin says, adding that he saw firsthand the movement to pass Proposition 8 striking down same-sex marriage in California.

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