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Taiwan moves on gay marriage

First legislative hearing discusses possible same-sex marriage equality. Court case could force first legal gay wedding in Asia
The Judician Yuan, Taiwan’s Supreme Justices, will hear a gay marriage case – their ruling could prove historic.

Taiwan is moving closer to allowing same-sex marriage but a judge has said proposed legislation may fall short of what is needed.

The current proposal changes only articles 972, 973 and 980 of the Civil Code, altering the words from ‘male’ and ‘female’ to gender-neutral language.

But Hsu Li-ying, from the Judicial Yuan's (Supreme Court) Juvenile and Family Department, said the new legislation ‘may need to be more comprehensive’.

However, speaking at Taiwan’s first legislative hearing on legalizing gay and lesbian marriages Hsu made no alternative proposal.

The hearing was attended by legislators, lawyers, gay rights activists and scholars.

Deputy Justice Minister Chen Ming-tang told them that it wasn’t just the Civil Code that would have to change, but also laws regarding parentage, taxes or health insurance. That meant that the Justice Ministry couldn’t do it alone, he said.

Meanwhile Chen Wei-lien, director of the Ministry of Justice's Department of Legal Affairs, suggested they would invite a scholar specializing in the Civil Code to look at Taiwanese attitudes to same-sex marriage early next year.

A poll in September by United Daily News showed 55% approval of gay marriage laws with only 37% against.

But it also found 61% couldn’t accept their children being gay with only 37% saying they could.

The government has repeatedly said it wants to study gay marriage prior to legalizing it.

The legislators might be pushed into action by the Judicial Yuan which is to hear the case of two men – Chen Ching-hsueh and long term partner Kao Chih-wei – who are demanding their marriage be legally recognized.

That could result in the first legal gay marriages in Asia.

Chen has pointed out that most people in Taiwan support gay marriage but has indicated frustration with politicians who wished to give equal marriage rights only on basis of public opinion, saying ‘Social consensus should not decide or limit one's happiness’.

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