CARTOON: Taiwan's Slow-Baked Recipe for Marriage Equality

CARTOON: Taiwan's Slow-Baked Recipe for Marriage Equality
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The Executive Yuan draft bill is a significant step, but the fight looks set to continue beyond May 24.

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Last week, Taiwan’s Executive Yuan unveiled a draft bill which aims to make Taiwan the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage.

The bill, titled “The Enforcement Act of Judicial Yuan Interpretation No. 748,” is designed to comply with a May 2017 ruling by Taiwan’s highest court that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry. At the time, the court had given Taiwan’s government two years (until May 2019) to pass legislation enforcing its ruling.

Now, 21 months after the court ruling – a time period which saw the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) hesitate to back full marriage equality while voters decided in a November 2018 referendum that marriage should be defined as between a man and a woman in Taiwan’s Civil Code – this legislation has arrived.

What happens next, however, is anyone’s guess.

Same-sex marriage advocates have expressed their discontent with sections of the draft legislation. For instance, the bill does not grant same-sex couples the right to adopt children of blood relatives. Other sections of the bill may be open for attack by groups opposed to marriage equality.

Taiwan’s Ministry of Justice has already said the draft bill is to be further amended. Tsai Ching-hsiang (蔡清祥), Taiwan’s justice minister, explicitly cited a need for provisions covering transnational same-sex marriages. Deputy justice minister Chen Ming-tang (陳明堂) said the ministry will seek to bring the bill in line with national adultery laws which carry the possibility of up to one year in prison for adulterers – regulations which are themselves considered awfully antiquated by critics.

Observers expect a fierce battle to come within Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan between DPP backers of the bill and opposition from the Kuomintang (KMT) and some hesitant DPP legislators.

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Read More: LGBT+ in Taiwan: Life After the Referendums

The New Power Party (NPP) has also introduced its own draft bill, titled the “Draft Same-Sex Marriage Equality Protection Act,” which would ensure that same-sex couples receive the same rights as heterosexual couples are granted in the Civil Code, including allowing those in same-sex marriages to have children through assisted reproduction.

NPP legislator Freddy Lim (林昶佐) offered the bill as a counterproposal to the Executive Yuan’s draft bill – the title of which, he noted, does not contain the word “marriage.”

The title of the Executive Yuan bill – crafted, along with its language, to snake between the opposing mandates of the Constitutional Court and the November 2018 referendums – may wind up being perceived as a hallmark of political compromise; a way to shake free from a stalemate.

For many supporters of marriage equality, however, any such victory will feel incomplete. Even if the Executive Yuan bill is passed and enforced on May 24, 2019, the fight for true equality in Taiwan looks set to continue.

Read Next: Cabinet Unveils Draft Bill and Picks a Side in Taiwan's Gay Marriage Fight

Editor: Nick Aspinwall (@Nick1Aspinwall)

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