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Taiwan elects first openly-lesbian local council members

Taiwan elects first openly-lesbian local council members

Miao Poya announces her election (Photo: Facebook)

Taiwan elected two lesbian local council members on Saturday (24 November).

Taipei City residents elected Miao Poya, representing the Social Democratic Party, to the local council. Meanwhile, they elected Lin Ying-Meng on behalf of the New Power Party.

The landmark wins came after a devastating defeat for the LGBTI community in national referendums.

As well as electing local council members and mayors, Taiwan on Saturday voted against changing the country’s Civil Code to recognize same-sex marriage.

It will instead pass a special law to recognize same-sex marriages within three months, the government announced.

Worryingly, Taiwan residents also voted against a gender equality education. Launched in 2014, the law promotes awareness of LGBTI issues in the national curriculum.

Leaders of the pro-LGBTI rights campaign said they were ‘deeply saddened and disappointed by the referendum results’.

Miao’s election will turn a new page in Taiwan’s politics, she said according to Taiwan News. Miao, an LGBTI rights activist, helped launch one of Saturday’s referendum bids.

Lin noted that results showed a rise in conservative power in Taiwan, in a Facebook live announcing her victory. ‘More needs to be done in promoting equality’ she said.

Not quite marriage equality for Taiwan

Taiwan made headlines last year when its highest court ruled that failing to recognize same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.

It paved the way for Taiwan to be the first country in Asia for equal marriage.

Advocates hoped, in line with the court’s suggestion, lawmakers would change the Civil Code’s definition of marriage.

The court’s statement, however, led space to enact separate legislation to recognize same-sex marriages.

But Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party, despite campaigning on a promise of marriage equality in the run-up to 2016 elections, and other lawmakers failed to enact legislation.

A lawmaker Gay Star News spoke to put this down to the country’s small but powerful Christian population.

She also said older Taiwanese held conservative traditional family values and were susceptible to misinformation.

Meanwhile, Taiwan’s government made it easier to propose referendums. Citizens need only to gather signatures from 1.5% of the electorate —280,000 in this case – to secure a referendum.

Anti-LGBTI campaigners successfully petitioned for a referendum on equal marriage and the Gender Equity Education Act. LGBTI rights advocates launched their own opposing petitions for referendums.

Taiwan, therefore, voted on five LGBTI rights questions on Saturday. The nation voted against the LGBTI community in each one.

Activists blamed unconstitutional referendum petitions, well-funded conservative groups spreading misinformation about the community and bad practices on the voting day.

‘The farce-like referendum started with unconstitutional proposals and closed with illegal means’ a Saturday statement said.