(Blogmensgo, gay blog of May 29, 2019) In Taiwan, the legalization of same-sex marriage came into force on May 24, 2019. This makes the island the first Asian country where same-sex marriages can take place. The Taiwanese parliament (Legislative Yuan) had passed a law on May 17 in third reading and with narrow majority, which President Tsai Ing-wen ratified on May 22. This implements a constitutional court ruling of May 2017 that gave the government until May 24, 2019 to enshrine gay marriage in law. Although the referendum on gay marriage on November 24, 2018 failed, almost 4,000 gay and lesbian couples had registered as partners with their communities.
Since 24 May, about 526 same-sex couples have married at the registry office, where they received a marriage certificate and identity cards stating their marriage and the name of their spouse. The Prime Minister had previously given very explicit instructions urging officials to be warm, polite and exemplary and to avoid any discriminatory action or attitude towards gay and lesbian couples wishing to marry.
Here a report in the original language and English subtitles to celebrate this important day in Taiwan:
In Taipei City Hall, where almost half of gay and lesbian marriages took place on the first day, there was a big celebration in honor of the first men and women who were allowed to marry a same-sex partner. In addition to the bridal couples and their families, many foreign personalities were present at the celebration. There were representatives from Spain, the United Kingdom, Canada and the European Union, while representatives from the United States and Australia followed Taiwan’s great social progress through social networks.
Chi Chia-wei, the man who had sued the Constitutional Court for homosexual marriage, called on other Asian countries to take Taiwan as an example and legalize same-sex marriage now. In 1986 he was the first Taiwanese to come out and in the same year he was imprisoned under poor pretexts.
Gay marriage in Taiwan: Not yet a full marriage…
This new Taiwanese law makes same-sex marriage almost equivalent to heterosexual marriage. Unfortunately only “almost equivalent“:
Here are the most important rights of same-sex couples in Taiwan:
- Equality with heterosexual couples in terms of parenthood, insurance, housing and inheritance law, etc.
- Recognition of the spouse for visiting and counseling rights, powers of attorney, urgent medical decision, burial, etc.
However, there are also important restrictions on gay marriage in Taiwan:
- Adoptions are limited to the biological children of the spouse.
- Marriage with a foreigner is only possible if the gay marriage is also legal in the foreigner's country. Unlike heterosexual binational couples, homosexual binational couples must obtain an official permit before getting married.
Victory or defeat for the president?
President Tsai Ing-wen made the legalization of same-sex marriage one of her election promises in 2016. Immediately after the Legislative Yuan had passed the law on gay marriage, she wrote the following on Twitter:
Why does she write “we” and not “me”? Because she and her government have not tried since taking office to deliver on their gay-friendly election campaign promise of 2015. The entry into force of gay marriage is now likely to do her double harm. Firstly, because opponents of gay marriage, especially strongly religious and older people, could use this as a pretext not to vote for her again in 2020. Second, because gays and lesbians will not forget her inaction to the demands of the LGBT community during her term of office.
Is the introduction of gay marriage in Taiwan a step forward or not?
In two important areas, such as the adoption of children without biological ties and marriage to foreigners, full equality has not yet been achieved.
Nevertheless, there is now gay marriage in Taiwan. Foreign media often do not fully reflect the small details and exceptions of such a change, and the general public abroad does not even notice them. So it is important that gays and lesbians can marry in Taiwan now, and it does not matter if you see the small exceptions internationally or not.
In any case, Taiwan’s legalization of same-sex marriage will receive much attention. Firstly, because Taiwan was the first Asian country to take this step. But above all because this historical event will undoubtedly make waves. In Thailand and the Philippines, consideration has already been given to a registered partnership or gay marriage. So if Taiwan has now taken this step, it may well boost other countries like Thailand or the Philippines.
In other parts of Asia, too, where isolated initiatives in favor of gay marriage have already emerged, progress could now be made: In Hong Kong, Japan and maybe South Korea.
The legalization of gay marriage in Taiwan might also encourage Muslim countries in the region (Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei) to grant more rights to homosexuals. The pseudo-argument of “corrupt Western morality” no longer applies as Taiwan has introduced gay marriage.
Finally here are some nice pictures. The two young women Amber Wang and Kristin Huang took the opportunity to get married on the very first day. Thanks to the subtitling in English (and Chinese), the content is easy to understand.
Update of 25 June 2019:
There have already been more than a thousand marriages and two gay divorces in Taiwan within a month, but no LGBT adoption yet.
Between 24 May and 23 June 2019, 1,173 same-sex couples married in Taiwan, or 10.84% of the total number of weddings. According to the Ministry of the Interior, there were 28 marriages between couples in which one of the two spouses is not Taiwanese. And indeed, two married homosexual couples have decided to divorce.
With 790 marriages in one month, lesbian couples are twice as frequently represented as gay couples (383 marriages). This may be the result of increased stigmatization of male couples in Taiwan, especially in rural areas.
Of the 22 cities and counties in the country, the five largest urban areas account for 73.6% of gay marriages, with more than 100 same-sex marriages each. In descending order: New Taipei (242 same-sex marriages), Taipei (198), Kaohsiung (159), Taichung (141) and Taoyuan (123). At the lower end, there were less than 10 gay marriages in each of 5 of the 22 communities, and Matsu Island County did not even have one.
On the other hand, none of these married homosexual couples has yet applied for adoption of the other partner’s children, although this possibility has existed in Taiwan since 24 May.
If there is no natural relationship to the children, i.e. they have already been adopted by the spouse, the right to adoption does not apply because a same-sex partner can only adopt natural children of the other partner.
Two married homosexual couples have already filed for divorce. It was not announced whether they were gay or lesbian couples.
The first divorce of a same-sex couple in Taiwan took place in the Pingtung district, where 12 of the 19 same-sex marriages had taken place immediately after the introduction of gay marriage on 24 May 2019. The couple in Pingtung wants to divorce because the parents of either partner refused their consent to their children’s union. In principle, gay marriage in Taiwan is open to all couples where both partners are at least 18 years old. However, in very traditionally oriented circles, parental consent is considered essential.
Frank-S / MensGo