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Taiwan’s same-sex marriage court ruling ‘cannot be touched’ says justice minister

Taiwan's Judicial Yuan Secretary-General Lu Tai-lang speaks to press (Photo: Twitter)

Referendums rejecting equal marriage in Taiwan will not override a Constitutional Court ruling that denying same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, the country’s justice department said Thursday (29 November).

Two-thirds of Taiwan’s voters last week elected to keep the Civil Code’s definition of marriage to between ‘man and a woman’ rather than ‘people’. Nearly three million voted to change it.

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

Taiwan’s Judicial Yuan secretary-general said the referendums do not affect the Constitutional Court’s ruling that denying same-sex couples the right to marry was unconstitutional.

In May 2017, the court ruled: ‘Sexual orientation is an immutable characteristic that is resistant to change’.

‘The freedom of marriage for two persons of the same sex, once legally recognised, will constitute the collective basis, together with opposite-sex marriage, for a stable society’.

It found the current Civil Code definition contravened people’s right to equality and freedom of marriage under articles 7 and 22 of constitutional law. It gave parliament two years to amend the laws.

The Legislative Yuan will only be able to decide how to guarantee these rights and freedoms, via amending the Civil Code or establishing a new law, the secretary-general said.

Equal marriage advocates in Taiwan are considering legal action after the referendum.

They say conservative campaigners publicly refused marriage equality ‘in essence’. This contravened the Constitutional Court ruling. A referendum, therefore, should not have been permitted.

Advocates also said anti-LGBT campaigners disseminated propaganda at voting stations. They also received reports of voting stations only providing ballots of certain referendum questions.

How did we get here?

Taiwan’s Constitutional Court ruled in May 2017 that the country’s Civil Code was unconstitutional for failing to recognize same-sex marriages. It gave the legislature two years to create a law.

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

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

What’s more, new referendum laws allowed conservative campaigners to petition the government for a referendum on what form the law should take.

Two-thirds of Taiwan’s voters chose a separate law, denounced by the LGBTI community as failing to offer genuine equality.

They also voted against the Gender Equity Education Act. Introduced in 2004, the legislation promotes LGBTI positive education in schools.

Conservative campaigners ran a well-funded campaign of misinformation and scaremongering, according to equal marriage advocates. It tore families apart.

This week, an LGBTI hotline reported calls and messages had soared after the vote.

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Author: Rik Glauert