The decision to allow a Taiwanese-Japanese gay couple to marry was postponed this morning by a household registration office in Taipei. The couple is one of the many who a local civil rights organization has recruited to test the limits of Taiwan’s marriage bill for same-sex couples.

The applicants for registration, known as A-shu and AZ, joined the rally of activists and lawyers outside the office after the decision and called on Taiwan’s government to allow transnational same-sex marriage and the Daan District Household Registration Office to “defy illegal orders” by the interior ministry.

The government office noted it will respond to the couple’s application for marriage registration after asking the interior ministry for instructions. It also required them to fill out another application form for “special cases.”

Taiwan’s Ministry of the Interior has instructed household registration offices across the country to not grant same-sex marriages if it not has been legalized in the home country of either person in the marriage, according to a Facebook post by the Taiwan Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership Rights, a local NGO. Japan, unlike Taiwan, does not recognize same-sex marriage.

The action is based on an administrative interpretation of the Act Governing the Choice of Law in Civil Matters Involving Foreign Elements, whose Article 46 holds that “the formation of a marriage is governed by the national law of each party.”

台灣同志遊行登場 民眾熱情參與

Photo Credit: CNA

Hundreds of thousands march on the streets of Taipei for the 2019 Taiwan Pride Parade on October 26, 2019.

A-shu and AZ took the action a day after Taipei’s administrative court ruled that a Taiwanese and Macau citizen have the right to wed and revoked another household registration office’s decision to block it based on the interior ministry’s interpretation.

The NGO pointed out that the ministry’s explanation has been ruled illegal by two court decisions this year.

In March, the Taipei High Administrative Court repealed the decision by the Daan District Household Registration Office that denied gay rights activist Chi Chia-wei’s application to marry a Malaysian student in May 2019, in a month after Taiwan legalized same-sex marriage. The government office defended its decision at court based on same-sex marriage holding no legal status in Malaysia — in adherence to the interior ministry’s guidelines.

In Chi’s case, the court applied the Article 8 of the Act, which states that foreign laws should not be applied if doing so leads to the violation of “the public order or good morals,” to back up its ruling, according to TAPCPR’s secretary-general Chien Tsu-chieh. She explained that foreign laws prohibiting same-sex marriage should be considered against Taiwan’s and should not be applied in the country.

“If the Ministry of the Interior is not willing to withdraw the illegal instructions, we will not rule out the possibility of filing a lawsuit against the government for compensation,” said Victoria Hsu, TACPR’s director and a practicing lawyer. “The central government should not let the ministry restrict people’s freedom of marriage.”

In April, Minister of the Interior Hsu Kuo-yung pledged in a parliamentary session to respond to lawmaker Chiu Hsien-chih’s call to solve the problem plaguing Taiwan’s transnational same-sex couples by issuing new instructions to household registration offices based on the Taipei high court’s decision in March.

Hsu (no relation with Victoria Hsu) said the ministry will give an answer after discussing the matter with the Judicial Yuan and the Ministry of Justice.

Still, A-shu and AZ’s action with the lawyers of TAPCPR has its significance. “By doing so, we are pushing the government to speed things up,” Chien said. “We also want to know their take on this issue.”

Chien said the government is likely to reject the Taipei court’s decision that defines foreign laws not allowing same-sex marriage as against “good morals.” “After all, it is just one court, but if the government rejects us, they have to give as a good reason,” she added.

Lawyers of the organization are ready to represent the Taiwanese-Japanese couple if the Daan office does not respond to their request for marriage registration in a month, which implies rejection, Chien said.

During the pandemic, it has been more difficult for foreign nationals to prepare for the documentation needed to apply for marriage registration in Taiwan, including a certificate that proves a holder’s single status.

“To obtain the document, a foreigner might need to take a month off work for the quarantine period,” Chien said. “Most people just cannot afford to take such a long leave.”

But the secretary-general also said her organization looks to exert pressure on the government to close the loophole in same-sex marriage legislation by helping more transnational same-sex couples register their marriage at household registration offices.

READ NEXT: Groundbreaking Court Decision Expands Transnational Same-Sex Marriage in Taiwan

TNL Editor: Nicholas Haggerty (@thenewslensintl)

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