TAIWAN AGREES TO SAME-SEX MARRIAGES
On Friday, May 17, 2019 Taiwan made history and international headlines by becoming the first country in Asia to take legislative action to establish durable partnerships for same-sex couples and have them recorded as marriages by departments of the government. Going into the legislative session it was anything but sure. The Executive Yuan had drafted a proposal with more than two dozen articles in an attempt to conform to the Council of Grand Justices’ (Supreme Court) mandate two years ago to either draft a law stipulating in what way same-sex couples could be married or on May 24, 2019 the law governing hetero-couples would automatically apply to all couples. [See our blog essay of May 31, 2017: www.kendobson.asia/blog/taiwan-wins.] Last year conservative political groups and Christian organizations proposed ways to stop this from happening, by putting it to a national referendum, not binding on the Legislative Yuan and not in conflict with the legal ruling. The people overwhelmingly rejected the idea of same sex marriages by a 2/3 majority in November 2018. That put the majority party in a bind. But with the deadline looming the executive branch of government drafted a modified plan for recognizing same sex marriages without certain rights to claim children through adoption or surrogacy. Those gaps can be fixed later, LGBT supporters told one another. Two conservative plans were also tabled for the vote on May 17. As the day wore on one after another of the articles proposed by the Executive Yuan were passed by the Legislative Yuan, including Article 4 specifically ordering governmental entities to begin “marriage registration.” More than 200 couples have applied to be married on the first day the law comes into effect. By 4 p.m. the law as a whole passed.
This makes Taiwan the first in Asia to agree to same-sex marriages.
There was celebration in the streets of Taipei as the votes were reported, where 25,000 people gathered in the cold rain to show support for the legislation being voted on inside. [Thanks to the BBC for the splendid picture, above.] International news organizations interrupted their speculation about whether the USA would start a war with Iran and how Brexit was being mishandled to tell the news.
The idea that Taiwan is a leader in progressive human rights is being noticed by people of Chinese ethnicity, especially in Hong Kong where a large minority would like to join the movement toward marriage equality, in Singapore where they want to look progressive but can’t manage to act accordingly, and China (the PRC) where they would like to keep the news about anything like this from spreading.
For this weekend, we’ll be content to say this is an important victory for human rights and a great event to have happened on IDAHOT, the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. Later we’ll consider how religious pressure failed to actually have an effect in this one country, and what that might mean for other countries where small religious minorities try to wield a whip in the name of morality and retarded culture. But in the end we will have to agree that each country in Asia is its own case. The outcome in Taiwan will probably not have much effect on South Korea, Vietnam or Thailand where same-sex rights are being espoused. [See: www.kendobson.asia/blog/taiwan-or-thailand.] Religion will dominate the discussion in the Philippines and Indonesia. [See: www.kendobson.asia/blog/indonesia-moving-backwards.] Brunei scores as the worst case in Asia, even with the Sultan’s comment that they will not yet start stoning gays to death.
Note: Check out Forum Asia's succinct summary of Taiwan's struggle for same sex marriage in this short 8 minute video: "Stories of Change - LGBTI Movement in Taiwan"
Rev. Dr. Kenneth Dobson posts his weekly reflections on this blog.