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Taiwan on the way to legalizing gay marriage?
(Blogmensgo, gay blog of December 14, 2018) Despite the failed referendum on homosexual marriage in Taiwan, almost 4,000 same-sex couples had already registered with local governments as single household couples on 8 December 2018, following the introduction of same-sex partnership in most cities and counties in 2015. This is a first step towards the gay marriage demanded by the Constitutional Court.
Today, 18 of the 22 districts of the island grant this official recognition to same-sex couples. In Hualien, Taitung, Yunlin and Penghu same-sex partnerships are not yet accepted, and in the city of Matsu no homosexual couple has yet been registered.
The desire for such a registered partnership also strongly depends on the advantages that municipalities grant to the registered couples. Usually they are only symbolic and only apply within the municipality, and are still miles away from the benefits of married hetero couples.
Of the 3,951 partnerships reported since 2015, 1,091 were concluded by November 2018 alone.
The Constitutional Court requested the government to legalise same-sex marriage until May 2019. The highest Taiwanese court ruled in May 2017 that it is unconstitutional to grant fewer rights and benefits to homosexual than to heterosexual couples. Since the benefits for married heterosexual couples should not be restricted, it is imperative that same-sex couples can also marry in order to obtain the same status and the associated benefits.
Despite her election promises, President Tsai Ing-wen had made the introduction of gay marriage dependent on the referendum of November 24, 2018. As voters chose to maintain the ban on same-sex marriage (see below), the government is now forced to develop uniform laws for same-sex partnerships across the country.
So will there be a simple gay partnership (in accordance with the referendum) or a comprehensive gay marriage (in accordance with the Taiwanese constitution)? Justice Minister Tsai Ching-hsiang plans to present a bill to parliament by March 1st, 2019. Apparently, the ministry has not yet decided between marriage and partnership.
… in spite of the failed referendum of November 2018
In the referendum of November 24, 2018, several questions were asked about the LGBT rights, but the wording was misleading.
One of the questions asked was whether the Civil Code could define marriage in such a way that it should unite “two persons” rather than “one man and one woman”. The text of question 10 in its English translation and precise wording:
Do you agree that marriage defined in The Civil Code should be restricted to the union between one man and one woman?
The result was clear: 7.7 million people voted for an exclusively heterosexual definition of marriage, and only 2.9 million against this clearly homophobic definition. However, as only 55.8% of voters answered this question, only 38.76% of the electorate voted for the status quo.
Question 12 produced similar results, but this time to protect the rights of same-sex couples, at least in a very specific context:
Do you agree to the protection of the rights of same-sex couples in cohabitation on a permanent basis in ways other than changing of the Civil Code?
In other words, about 60% of the votes cast were in favor of protecting the rights of gay or lesbian couples, but only if the Civil Code is not affected. A homophobic verdict passed by less than one third (32.4%) of voters.
Do you agree to the protection of same-sex marital rights with marriage as defined in the Civil Code?
Consent to the protection of the marital rights of same-sex couples with a definition of marriage in the Civil Code? No, according to over two-thirds of the votes cast.
Incidentally, two questions on gender education were also rejected. Question 11, which prohibits such education, was confirmed, while question 15 on the need for education on gender equality was rejected.
The large differences in the wording of very similar questions can be explained by the fact that some of them came from LGBT associations, others from groups with a religious or conservative background. It is sufficient that 280,000 people (1.5% of voters) sign a petition for a question for it to be included in a referendum.