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First Taiwanese official backing gay marriage does it firmly

Senior disease control official Shih Wen-yi has become one of the most vocal gay rights supporters overnight, after two lesbians tied the knot in a temple earlier this month
Photo by the China Times.

The deputy director-general of the Centers for Disease Control has become the first senior official in Taiwan to publicly support gay marriage, in a perfect buildup to a court hearing on the issue next month.

It was the Buddhist wedding ceremony between a lesbian couple that prompted Shih Wen-yi of the CDC to lay out his position first on Facebook yesterday (20 August). He went on to reiterate his support today, after stirring up a heated public debate and government departments including his own CDC drawing a line.

Society has let the gay community down for too long, Shih said emotionally this morning. By starting the discussion on gay marriage, he hopes officials, lawmakers and the public can all learn to respect minorities.

Stressing he has gay friends himself but remains ‘good’, Shih refutes certain parents’ claim that their kids can be turned into homosexual. As sexuality is inborn, gays should be respected.

There are presumably many officials who want to let gays tie the knot, but unable to have a stance that satisfies everyone, they choose to say nothing at all, according to Shih. With legislation capable of correcting wrong perceptions, he believes the government should make a move.

The CDC issued a statement yesterday to clarify any support for gay marriage was entirely Shih’s, even as the Ministry of Justice cited such issues as inheritance, insurance and adoption to support its call for further public deliberation.

President Ma Ying-jeou has earlier stressed the need for consensus on gay marriage. In a written reply to a petition for gay marriage by the aforementioned lesbian couple yesterday, the President’s Office said it had referred the issue to Ministry of Interior and asked Fish Huang and her wife to be patient.

Huang hit out at the government’s tendency to duck the issue as best they can as well as its inaction in educating the public. As such, ‘consensus’ is nothing but an excuse, she says.

Although far from making a majority, individual lawmakers from three political parties including the ruling Chinese Nationalist Party have successively backed gay marriage, following Shih’s example.

When Shih buttressed the idea on Facebook with his weekly poem and a few statements, he raised quite a few eyebrows, even among rights activists and gays alike.

In addition to human rights, Shih said same-sex marriage would also help prevent AIDS, noting it costs about NT$350,000 ($11,657,€9,371) to treat an HIV/AIDS patient every year.

In response to this disputable remark, Chen Ching-hsueh (also known as Nelson Chen) - whose lawyers will present their arguments for gay marriage in front of all the three judges in charge of the case for the first time on 11 September – spoke to Shih overnight that it should be ‘love’ instead of ‘marriage’ that can help fight AIDS, Chen told GSN.

‘Straight men and women have been able to legally unite for hundreds of years, but the existence of sexual diseases is still an unchanged fact,’ Chen said, calling instead for better epidemic prevention policies.

Making a long and prompt reply that reduced Chen to tears, Shih went along with Chen on the importance of love and acknowledged heterosexual marriage per se does not stop people from being promiscuous.

Shih emphasized his focus was on human rights and noted: ‘There need not be any reason to legalize gay marriage in the very first place.’

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