Politicians across party lines reacted positively to the Council of Grand Justices’ constitutional interpretation yesterday that same-sex marriages should be protected by the Constitution, although the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus is still undecided on how such marriages should be legalized.
The Council of Grand Justices ruled that the Civil Code is unconstitutional for rejecting same-sex unions, and laws have to passed within two years to ensure marriage equality.
The ruling sparked a debate about whether an amendment to the Civil Code or a new law would be preferable for legalizing same-sex marriages.
DPP caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) said the DPP caucus could not make a decision on the format for the change until the Executive Yuan has drafted its own legislative proposal.
“The constitutional ruling does not dictate a special law or Civil Code amendment to legalize gay marriage, and the caucus respects different proposals made by individual lawmakers,” he said.
He urged the Executive Yuan to draft a proposal soon because it cannot, as the highest executive agency in the nation, be excused from such major legislation.
Ker rejected the possibility that same-sex marriages could be legalized quickly, as the current legislative session is about to end, and the schedule for a proposed extraordinary session is crowded with pension reform efforts and a major infrastructure bill.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus secretary-general Alicia Wang (王育敏) said marriage equality is a value espoused by most people, and the only issue left to be decided is how same-sex marriages should be legalized.
“The KMT caucus is open to both ideas [amending the Civil Code or a new law], and the caucus does not have a resolution in total approval or disapproval of either idea,” she said.
“The Ministry of Justice has an obligation to propose its own draft legislation, and it has to understand public opinion and adopt an approach that can be accepted by most citizens,” Wang said, adding the review of a draft amendment to the Civil Code proposed by DPP Legislator Yu Mei-nu (尤美女) should await the ministry’s proposal.
Yu, whose proposal last year cleared review by a legislative committee, said a new law would violate constitutional rights to equality.
A special same-sex marriage law or a partnership law would be “a differential treatment based on sexual orientation,” which would be a form of “segregation despite [marriage] equality,” she said.
“The constitutional ruling, with its stress on equality, in fact hints at a direction for legalizing same-sex marriage, which is to revise the Civil Code,” Yu said, calling for a swift passage of her proposal in the extraordinary session.
The New Power Party pledged to push for a Civil Code amendment.
“The extraordinary legislative session in June can proceed with a Civil Code amendment. The Legislative Yuan has the responsibility to fully cooperate with the constitutional ruling and make improvements,” the party said in a statement.
People First Party Legislator Chen Yi-chieh (陳怡潔) said her party’s caucus did not have any preconception regarding how same-sex marriage should be legalized, and it would await a coordinated legislative initiative by the Executive Yuan and the DPP caucus.
Whether it be a special law or a Civil Code amendment, the legislative solution proposed should ensure social harmony, she said.
The Presidential Office said the law “has to guarantee marriage equality and freedom for all,” and the government should put forward a legislative proposal in accordance with the ruling and public opinions.
President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has called for tolerance and understanding, and urged the public to settle differences with democratic means, Presidential Office Secretary-General Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) said.
The Executive Yuan said it fully respects the ruling, and the justice ministry would put forward a legislative proposal shortly.
The proposal would be put forward “under the principle of minimizing social conflicts and maximizing consensus,” it added, without hinting at whether the ministry would seek special legislation or an amendment.
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