The Council of Grand Justices’ decision to hold a constitutional review on same-sex marriage represents an important breakthrough, but could also be a double-edged sword, marriage equality proponents said yesterday.
“We believe that the justice’s willingness to review this issue is a step forward, because they could have chosen to keep shelving the case and ignoring it,” said Taiwan Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership Rights secretary-general Chien Chih-chieh (簡至潔) , whose organization has represented long-time gay rights advocate Chi Chia-wei (祁家威) in a renewed suit to overturn legal restrictions on marriage equality.
The council on Friday announced it would broadcast a live debate on Chi’s case next month, and also submitted a request for constitutional interpretation by Taipei City’s Bureau of Civil Affairs.
Prior to the council’s announcement, Chien said that Chi’s case had been shelved for a year-and-a-half due to the failure of at least three of the council’s 17 justices to agree to the review.
Six of the seven justices appointed last year expressed support for same-sex marriage during questioning at the Legislative Yuan.
“The Legislative Yuan announced in December last year that a review of same-sex marriage legislation would start again in April, so the Judicial Yuan’s choice to hold hearings in March is extremely interesting and we trust that it is not a coincidence,” she said, attributing the council’s decision to renewed social debate after the introduction of bills late last year.
“Depending on the social atmosphere, either legislative or judicial legalization is possible at this point, and greater visibility and discussion will make it more likely that one route or the other will succeed,” she said, while adding that the court’s ruling could be a double-edged sword, depending on its content.
“It is not impossible that the court will rule to uphold the constitutionality of the existing laws, but we feel the probability of such a ruling is not great,” she said.
“Next comes the question of what should be done and whether there should be amendments to the Civil Code, or the passage of a separate set of laws guaranteeing the rights of same-sex couples,” she added.
Current debate has revolved around how legal protections for same-sex couples should be bolstered — not whether new measures are required.
Meanwhile, the anti-marriage equality Happiness of the Next Generation Alliance issued a statement calling for the council to first review whether same-sex attraction is innate or a disorder requiring treatment before moving into discussions about constitutionality.
“The court should also consider effects on the public and children’s interests, as well as the possibility of a social, educational and cultural ‘earthquake,’” the group said.