Religious groups warn on civil partnership bill

SUPPORTING HAPPINESS::A mass wedding organized by groups in support of legalizing all forms of civil partnerships was attended by more than 1,000 people on Saturday

Staff writer, with CNA

Mon, Sep 09, 2013 - Page 3

Buddhist and Christian representatives and the leader of the Unification Church in Taiwan have warned against a bill which is to be sent to the legislature that would legalize various forms of civil partnerships, including same-sex marriage.

The bill was drafted by the Taiwan Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership Rights, which pushes recognition of civil partnership rights for all couples, irrespective of gender.

The amendments to the civil code also call for legal recognition of the rights of a group of more than two people to form a family whose members are not related by blood.

Members of several religious groups expressed their opposition to the bill on Saturday, saying at a press conference in Taipei that it would be detrimental to “traditional family values.”

Buddhist Master Shih Ching-yao (釋淨耀) said that while he respects same-sex couples, he also hopes they respect the “traditional family value” of the union of one man and one woman.

The union of one man and woman is nature’s rule, Shih said.

Chen Chih-hung (陳志宏), a pastor, said he worried that legalization of same-sex marriage would worsen the decline of Taiwan’s birthrate and contribute to sexual promiscuity by the younger generation.

Chang Chuan-feng (張全鋒), head of the Unification Church Taiwan, echoed Chen’s view, urging the government not to pass a bill that he contended would encourage promiscuity.

Alliance secretary-general Chien Chih-chieh (簡至潔) said that non-traditional family forms are an international trend and have been in existence in Taiwan for years, and she said the government should safeguard their rights through the legislation.

She also dismissed the association between same-sex relationships and AIDS, saying the prevention of the viral disease lies in preventing unsafe sexual behavior rather than discouraging gay relationships.

A mass symbolic wedding that attracted more than 1,000 people was held in Taipei on Saturday, amid a push by civic groups to legalize all forms of civil partnerships, including same-sex marriage.

The wedding, which took place on Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Office in Taipei, was held as a traditional outdoor banquet so that about 30 same-sex, bisexual and transgender couples could symbolically tie the knot and receive blessings from the public, campaigners said.

Hsu Hsiu-wen (許秀雯), director of the Taiwan Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership Rights, said the event was aimed at challenging existing legal boundaries and contributing to a more open society.

The alliance also hoped that the banquet would drive up support for an amendment that would legalize gay marriage, civil partnerships, and the adoption of children by diverse families in Taiwan.

The proposed legislation is set to be submitted to the legislature later this month.

Hsu’s cause received support from celebrities such as singers A-mei (張惠妹) and Cheer Chen (陳綺貞), who both donated personal items for a fundraising auction held during the event, the alliance said.