Lawmakers across party lines yesterday agreed to another round of negotiations on same-sex marriage legislation should a third version of the bill secure a vote to advance to the second-reading today.
The Council of Grand Justices’ Interpretation No. 748, issued on May 24, 2017, says the lack of protection of same-sex marriage in the Civil Code is “unconstitutional,” and that a special law or legal amendments should be introduced to legalize same-sex marriages within two years.
With the deadline just 21 days away, the Legislative Yuan has to date voted to advance two same-sex union bills to a second reading: One is sponsored by the Executive Yuan and the other by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lai Shyh-bao (賴士葆) on behalf of the Happiness of the Next Generation Alliance.
A third version, proposed by HTC chairwoman Cher Wang’s (王雪紅) Hope, Faith and Love Foundation and sponsored by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lin Tai-hua (林岱樺), which has received the cross-party support of 17 lawmakers, is expected to be fast-tracked to a second reading today.
The foundation’s proposal is titled “the draft enforcement act for Judicial Yuan Interpretation No. 748 and Referendum No. 12.
Referendum No. 12, one of the referendum questions held alongside the nine-in-one local elections on Nov. 24 last year, asked voters: “Do you agree that the right to persons of the same sex to create a permanent union should be guaranteed by an institution other than marriage as defined by the Civil Code?”
It passed after garnering 6.4 million “yes” votes and 4.07 million “no” votes.
Foundation staffers, who requested anonymity, said they are worried that Lin’s version — which claims to be the middle path and the best among the three versions — could contravene Interpretation No. 748 by substituting the wording of “same-sex marriage” with “same-sex union.”
They said this would contradict the interpretation’s wording of “the protection of marriage equality.”
Vice Minister of Justice Chen Ming-tang (陳明堂) urged legislators to support the Cabinet’s version, saying it is in line with the constitutional interpretation and the referendum result.
However, Lai said that the Cabinet’s version disregards the result of the referendum, and cross-caucus negotiations should not commence until after the versions tendered by Lin and other lawmakers advance to second reading.
DPP Legislator Tuan Yi-kang (段宜康) said that laws are enacted to promote equality, such as ethnic and gender equality.
Tuan told KMT Legislator Sra Kacaw (鄭天財), an Amis, that just as laws were passed to protect the rights of Aborigines, foreign spouses and women, so too should laws on same-sex marriage.
All draft laws on the issue should mention marriage or be considered a breach of the interpretation, he added.
Describing the Cabinet’s version as barely satisfactory, KMT Legislator Jason Hsu (許毓仁) said he hoped that it would be expanded to tackle issues such as relatives by marriage, foreign spouses and adoption.
DPP Legislator Yu Mei-nu (尤美女) voiced her support for the Cabinet’s version, saying that legislators cannot sponsor any legislation that is unconstitutional.
Freedom, the rule of law and observance of human rights are what distinguishes Taiwan from China, Yu said, adding that she hoped the public would be more accepting of other values.
One of the differences between the Executive Yuan’s version and Lai’s version is how to address relations — the former uses “same-sex marriage,” while the latter adopts the term “same-sex family members.”
The Cabinet’s proposal would allow same-sex couples to adopt children from a previous marriage, while Lai’s version does not mention the right to adoption, but instead states that “a same-sex family member should sign documents with the other same-sex family member to exercise the right to joint custody.”
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