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Taiwan parliament debates gay marriage for the first time

Taiwan parliament debates gay marriage for the first time

The judiciary committee of Taiwan’s legislature today (22 December) held a hearing on two same-sex marriage legislations proposed by members of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

This marked the first time a legislative debate on same-sex marriage was conducted in Taiwan, as the governing party, the Chinese Nationalist Party or Kuomintang (KMT) vehemently opposes marriage equality and blocked all efforts in the past.

In addition to marriage specifically, the bills also seek to make gender-specific provisions in the civil code on inheritance, marital property, parenthood, and adoption gender-neutral so as to afford same-sex couples equal rights as heterosexual couples.

At the hearing, Ministry of Justice (MOJ) administrative deputy minister Chen Ming-tang essentially reiterated the points raised in the written statement the ministry issued beforehand.

Although the MOJ has consistently opposed same-sex marriage in the past, even while under a DPP presidency, this was the first time the ministry under President Ma Ying-jeou, former KMT chair, systematically justified its disapproval of marriage equality. The MOJ cited the following main reasons for its position:

  1. The public would not be able to accept gender-neutral terms because they differ from people’s historical conceptions of human relations.
  2. One of the reasons for marriage is procreation, and since same-sex couples cannot procreate, allowing them to marry would impact the existing marital institution that places emphasis on blood relations.
  3. If same-sex marriage were recognized, death of a spouse would lead to inheritance passing onto the surviving spouse and children, thus the surviving parents would be left with nothing.
  4. There are too many laws and regulations that use the terms ‘father,’ ‘mother,’ ‘grandfather,’ and ‘grandmother,’ so amending them all to be consistent with the marriage equality bill would be too cumbersome.

The statement went on to discuss the opinions the MOJ gathered from four consultations on same-sex marriage it conducted in the past two years.

First, it argued that amending the civil code is not necessary to protect the rights of same-sex couples. It next raised the issue of the impact of same-sex marriage on children, citing safety concerns and arguing that children adopted by same-sex couples may suffer from psychological problems.

Finally, the MOJ stated that same-sex marriage should not be legalized without popular consensus, which includes the views of the religious community. As a cautionary example, it cited France as a country that legalized same-sex marriage despite considerable popular opposition, which purportedly resulted in social unrest.

The MOJ concluded the statement by asserting that it respects the choices of same-sex couples. It would be fascinating to see what the statement would have looked like if it did not respect same-sex couples!

Predictably, while DPP legislators easily eviscerated these puerile arguments, KMT members argued that same-sex marriage is against tradition and public consensus and would lead to lack of procreation and bestiality.

As this was the first hearing, no conclusions were reached. Unfortunately, however, as the KMT controls both the presidency and the legislature, the road to marriage equality in Taiwan will most likely be long and arduous.