Same-sex marriage case dismissed

By Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter

Fri, Oct 13, 2017 - Page 1

The Taipei High Administrative Court yesterday handed the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community a setback when it dismissed a request by a same-sex couple seeking legal recognition of their union after the Council of Grand Justices ruled that the nation’s Civil Code was unconstitutional in May, setting a precedent that could dash the hopes of other same-sex couples looking to get married within the two-year deadline set by the interpretation for the legalization of same-sex marriage.

The couple’s lawyer, Hsu Hsiu-wen (許秀雯), said she was disappointed by the ruling and would confer with the plaintiffs and other lawyers before deciding whether to appeal.

The court said that it could not grant the request by Fang Min (方敏) and Lin Yu-li (林于立) to register their marriage on the grounds that “the legal framework for same-sex marriage has not been promulgated into law” and the two-year deadline has yet to be reached.

The Household Registration Office in Taipei’s Zhongzheng District (中正) in August 2014 rejected the couple’s attempt to register their marriage, citing the Civil Code’s definition of marriage as a “legally binding relationship between a man and a woman for the purpose of spending their lives together.”

The same-sex couple then filed a lawsuit asking the court to overturn the decision by the registration office and validate their marriage.

The case is one of three filed by same-sex couples at about the same time to pressure the government to afford them the right to be legally married.

Court hearings of all three cases were suspended after homosexual rights advocate Chi Chia-wei (祁家威) applied for a constitutional interpretation on same-sex marriage in August 2015.

There have been major changes since the case filed after Constitutional Interpretation No. 748 in May this year in which the grand justices ruled that the Civil Code’s current definition of marriage is unconstitutional and requested that the Legislative Yuan amend the law within two years.

Nevertheless, the lawyers did claim a small victory, as yesterday’s ruling cited the landmark ruling by the grand justices and upheld the view that the restrictions on marriage for same-sex couples was unconstitutional.

“We were handed a setback, but we also gained a victory,” Hsu said.

The judiciary should work to rectify the unconstitutional aspect of the Civil Code and the most simple way to do that is to permit marriage registration by same-sex couples, Hsu said.

Future Generations representative Tseng Hsien-ying (曾獻瑩), whose group is against same-sex marriage, said the court’s ruling was reasonable, adding that any change to the traditional definition of marriage should be decided via a referendum.

“Constitutional Interpretation No. 748 is an interpretation that encroaches on the nation’s legislative power. Courts should not use it to overturn a verdict by a local registration office,” Tseng said.

Additional reporting by CNA