In October last year, Premier William Lai (賴清德) told the public that he had not given up on drafting a proposal to legalize same-sex marriage by the end of the year. He promised not to delay the issue and said he would do his best to push it forward.
While it would have taken a really naive person to take his words at face value, it is still disheartening that nothing has happened at all, with only three months left until the first anniversary of the historic ruling by the Council of Grand Justices instructing the government to legalize same-sex marriage.
In the meantime, Australia legalized same-sex marriage in December last year, while last month, the Taipei High Administrative Court rejected the third lesbian couple who attempted to register their marriage since October last year. The court said that since the amendments legalizing same-sex marriage had not cleared the legislature, it had no legal basis to approve the marriage application.
While same-sex couples would automatically be granted the right to marry once the two-year period stipulated by the council is over, the delay gives the opposition plenty of time to cook up schemes that are not likely to work, but are simply insulting to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, as well as the Constitution, as restrictions on same-sex marriage have been ruled unconstitutional by the council.
When the Referendum Act (公民投票法) was amended in December last year, lowering the thresholds for initiating, seconding and passing referendums, it was almost expected that the groups opposed to gay marriage would jump on it to further their agenda.
They have wasted no time, as the Alliance for the Happiness of Future Generations on Friday last week submitted a proposal for a referendum on same-sex marriage, garnering 3,549 signatures — about 900 shy of the one that proposed changing the nation’s Olympic team name from “Chinese Taipei” to “Taiwan.”
The group urged the government to let the public decide whether to legalize same-sex marriage, saying that most Taiwanese do not support changing the definition of marriage in the Civil Code, which appears based on its own survey conducted prior to the ruling.
Nevertheless, the law trumps public opinion and even the most conservative poll conducted before the ruling showed that 52 percent of Taiwanese supported same-sex marriage.
There is no point arguing against these groups, as they are not likely to stop even after gay marriage is formally legalized, but it just continues to highlight that the government has not taken action to turn the ruling into law.
The government is not helping itself by continuing to brush aside the gay marriage issue.
Taking action on same-sex marriage is a simple way for the government to show sincerity and salvage some of its reputation.
Same-sex unions would be legalized in May next year in any case, unless the government has other ideas, as Lai might or might not have suggested late last year when he said that it will take time to seek appropriate proposals due to societal reservations on the issue.
People should not dismiss the issue of gay marriage only because it will eventually be legalized. It is a human rights issue, and the long wait is simply agonizing to the LGBT community — many of whom desperately need to marry for legitimate, practical reasons — and the people who support them in their fight for equality.
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