Battle for same-sex marriage in Taiwan enters final phase

Battle for same-sex marriage in Taiwan enters final phase
Opposition lawmakers protest same-sex marriage bill in country's parliament (Photo: Legislative Yuan Live Feed)

The battle for same-sex marriage in Taiwan moved to the country’s parliament on Tuesday (5 March).

The ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) cabinet handed a draft same-sex marriage law to parliament.

It is the last leg of a long journey for same-sex marriage in Taiwan.

But, at this crucial juncture, the rights of same-sex couples are still at risk. Powerful anti-LGBTI groups continue to lobby lawmakers to instead enact a ‘partnership’ law.

The Constitutional Court in 2017 ruled Taiwan must legislate for same-sex marriage before 24 May this year.

The country’s premier, who announced the law last month, urged parliamentarians to pass the law quickly on Tuesday.

Twenty-nine lawmakers from the main opposition party, the Kuomintang (KMT), over the weekend reportedly expressed support for a rival bill.

The bill would limit the rights of same-sex couples. It would not include terms such as ‘marriage’ or ’spouse’.

KMT lawmakers on Tuesday held up signs in parliament objecting the bill’s quick passage.

How did we get here?

Taiwan last month became the first country in Asia to draft a same-sex marriage bill.

But as the details emerged, the government, lawmakers, and activists admitted it fell short of true marriage equality.

The compromise bill comes after a devastating referendum loss in November 2018. Taiwan voters opted for a separate law to legalize same-sex unions rather than to change the Civil Code.

In May 2017, Taiwan’s Constitutional Court ruled it was unconstitutional to deny marriage rights to same-sex couples. It gave a two-year deadline to legislate.

But, following the referendum, conservative groups have been lobbying lawmakers to enact a ‘cohabitation’ or ‘partnership’ law to afford same-sex couples similar rights as marriage.

Rights activists denounced this as failing to give genuine equality.

What’s next?

The opposition KMT on Monday said it would not be introducing a rival bill at this stage, according to local media.

And, in another piece of good news, it was reported that the DPP would request all its lawmakers to get behind the government’s draft bill.

Since the DPP holds a parliamentary majority, the bill could pass with ease.

If parliament fails to pass the bill before May 24, same-sex marriages will become legal by default.

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Author: Rik Glauert