Thu, Jan 09, 2020 - Page 14 News List

LGBT election concerns

Win or lose, KMT campaign tactics stoke concerns for the progress of LGBT rights and education

By James Baron  /  Contributing reporter

A protester holds a sign denouncing the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) anti-LGBT stance at Taipei Pride on Oct. 24.

Photo courtesy of Naomi Goddard

If anything has been predictable about Kaohsiung Mayor and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate Han Kuo-yu’s (韓國瑜) election campaign, it has been its unpredictability. From urging supporters to “confuse” polling organizations by pretending to back his opponent President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) to proposing daily flag-raising ceremonies on high-mountain peaks to boost tourism, the KMT candidate has evinced Trumpian levels of caprice.

Even by these mercurial standards, his statements at a campaign event on Nov. 30 were surprising: “I hope and pray that people who love each other can become family in the end,” Han said in response to a question about whether he would repeal same-sex marriage legislation should he become president. “I completely respect people’s relationships, because they can see their own situation most clearly,” he added.

When raised at previous stops on his three-month-long “listening tour,” Han skirted the issue. Even the November statement was mealy-mouthed and unspecific. In response, local media cited his support for the “family values” of anti-LGBT Christian groups in his successful 2018 campaign for the Kaohsiung mayor.

More tellingly, Han’s new-found tone of tolerance contrasted sharply with false claims by his wife Lee Chia-fen (李佳芬) weeks earlier that elementary schoolchildren were being taught about anal sex. Lee then called the issue of same-sex marriage “over-exploited.” More ominously, she said her husband would review the legislation if he won power.

All of this suggests Han is simply courting the demographic where he most obviously lags: the youth vote. He is unlikely to change many minds. For, whatever his own views, the KMT’s reputation for reaction and intolerance is justified.

Just this week, posters were circulating in Yunlin County stating that a vote for incumbent Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) councilor Su Chih-fen (蘇治芬) would entail a missing generation of grandchildren.

Images of same-sex couples tying the knot and embracing were juxtaposed with a photo of a silvery couple gazing dotingly at a newborn baby cradled in the crook of an elderly woman’s arm. Above the beatific elders, a line of text read: “Down with same-sex marriage legislators!”

Over in Taipei’s Daan District, beaming supporters of Christian fundamentalist candidate Meng Ai-lun (孟藹倫) brandished placards touting her promise to abolish same-sex marriage.

Of course, this is grandstanding. A KMT president — leave aside district councilor — could not just do away with Taiwan’s monumental rights progress.

“Even if Han Kuo-yu were elected, it wouldn’t be possible to immediately change the act,” says Victoria Hsu (許秀雯), cofounder and executive director of the Taiwan Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership Rights.

Hsu, who also serves on the Executive Yuan’s Gender Equality Commission, points out that, under the Referendum Act, the law cannot be amended or rescinded for at least two years following implementation.

“That’s May 2021 at the earliest,” Hsu says. “And though there are many conservative KMT politicians saying they will change the act if they win, I don’t think it will happen. This was a constitutional court’s decision. If they abolish the law, it will be ruled unconstitutional.”

Hsu also believes that a lot of the KMT’s anti-gay rhetoric is for expediency.

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