Taiwan just voted against equal marriage in the country today (24 November).
It held a referendum on several LGBTI issues, including whether to change the Civil Code definition of marriage to two ‘people’ rather than a ‘man and a woman’.
But in a devastating blow to the LGBTI community, voters rejected marriage equality.
For any referendum to pass, it needs a result of 4.95 million people voting in favor, according to the Central Election Commission.
At the time of writing, just over 5 million people voted to keep the Civil Code to the ‘man and a woman’ definition, with only roughly 1.5 million voting to change it.
In today’s referendum, Taiwanese people voted in five LGBTI-specific questions:
- Case 10 asked if the definition of marriage should stay between a man and a woman. Voters said yes.
- Case 11 asked if elementary and middle schools should teach gender equality education. Voters said no.
- Case 12 asked if voters believed in giving same-sex couples who live together legal protections, without changing the Civil Code. Voters said yes.
- Case 14 asked if voters wanted to change the Civil Code to offer same-sex marriage. Voters said no.
- Case 15 asked if schools should teach all students about ‘gender equality, emotional education, sex education and same-sex education’. Voters said no.
A press release from Marriage Equality Coalition Taiwan stated: ‘We are deeply saddened and disappointed by the referendum results today.
‘However, we would like to express our gratitude toward those who have been supporting the cause throughout the process.’
It added: ‘The referendum results showed that the majority of the public were misled by the fake information disseminated by the anti-LGBTQ alliance, which caused serious misunderstanding towards the current LGBTQ education.’
All hope is not lost: Marriage equality in Taiwan by May 2019
In May 2017, Taiwan’s top court made a first of its kind ruling in Asia, saying that same-sex couples had the right to legally marry. It set a two-year deadline for legislation.
This means by May 2019, LGBTI people will legally be able to marry in Taiwan.
But new referendum laws allowed both anti- and pro- LGBTI groups to launch petitions on what form the legislation would take.
The government has previously said the outcome of the referendum won’t affect the ruling of May 2017.
But LGBTI advocates have denounced a separate marriage law, akin to the UK’s Civil Partnership Act, as failing to provide equality.
They wanted lawmakers to change the Civil Code to define marriage as between two ‘people’ rather than a ‘man and a woman’.
On Saturday, Taiwan also went to the polls on the country’s LGBTI-inclusive curriculum.
How did we get here?
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.