This year’s International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia witnessed a significant moment in the history of LGBTQ rights as Taiwan’s parliamentarians pass Asia’s first same-sex marriage legislation today (17 May), despite strong opposition from the public as seen in the results of a referendum last Nov.
Results of the referendum revealed that more than 70 per cent of people surveyed were opposed to the legalisation of same-sex marriages in Taiwan, and were keen on preserving marriage rights exclusively for heterosexual couples, Bloomberg reported.
In 2017, Taiwan’s Constitutional Court ruled that the existing law, which only permitted and recognised marriage as being only between a man and a woman, was unconstitutional, resulting in a verdict whereby the Taipei parliament was given two years to amend or enact new laws regarding such unions until 24 May this year.
Lawmakers today voted on three draft bills, with one of them being a marriage equality Bill tabled by the Cabinet and the other two Bills put forth by conservative groups pushing for a “watered-down” “civil-union” in opposition of legalising same-sex marriage.
The progressive Bill tabled by the Cabinet was passed 66 to 27 votes, supported by Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which holds the majority in the House.
The Cabinet’s Bill incorporates the word “marriage” and covers adoption rights for same-sex couples, albeit limited ones. The Bills put forth by conservatives included no adoption rights.
President Tsai said that while she acknowledged that the question of same-sex marriages has caused deep divisions in “families, generations and even inside religious groups” in Taiwan, she argued that the Cabinet’s Bill was the only one that was aligned with the Constitutional Court’s judgement.
Lai Shyh-bao of the opposition Kuomintang party, who acted as one of the proponents of the “civil union” Bills, however, argued that “The cabinet’s bill ignores the referendum results and that is unacceptable.”
President Tsai tweeted in support of the Bill today just before its passing:
Good morning #Taiwan. Today, we have a chance to make history & show the world that progressive values can take root in an East Asian society.
— 蔡英文 Tsai Ing-wen (@iingwen) May 17, 2019
She wrote: “Good morning #Taiwan. Today, we have a chance to make history & show the world that progressive values can take root in an East Asian society.”
“Today, we can show the world that #LoveWins,” she added.