Will Taiwan be next to Implement Same-sex Marriage?

Will Taiwan be next to Implement Same-sex Marriage?
都柏林街頭隨處可見表態支持公投通過的民眾。Photo Credit:陳沂庭
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On May 22, Ireland conducted a referendum to have citizens decide whether or not they wish to amend Article 41 of the Irish constitution to add, “Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.”

After 15 hours of voting, the government declared the outcome on the evening of May 23 at 7 pm. 62.07% of Irish citizens were in favor of the amendment and 37.93% opposed. The turnout was about 60.52%.

Ireland is now officially the 20th country in the world where same-sex marriages is legal. It is the first country to use veto referendum as a voting method to entrust same-sex couples with the right to get married.

As soon as the procedures for the amendment are carried out, Ireland predicts to have gay and lesbian marriages by September this year. One might say this is a big step for a conservative Catholic country like Ireland that took until 1993 to approve of homosexuality and didn’t legalize divorce until 1995.

I was lucky to have witnessed this historic moment in Ireland.

Before the referendum was conducted, the streets of Dublin were filled with “vote yes” and “vote no” slogans.

Luckily, the supporters of the amendment outnumbered the naysayers. Many shops used graffiti of all colors to encourage the Irish to vote for approval. People on the street also had their own ways of showing their support, such as wearing “I’m voting YES” badges.

都柏林街頭的路燈或電線桿佈滿公投標語。Photo Credit:陳沂庭

The light posts and telephone poles of Dublin are covered with posters. Photo Credit: Chen Yiting (Chris)

The day before the referendum, I met a twenty-year-old girl, Hannah, near the Spire of Dublin. She was holding an A4-sized sign saying “Vote YES” behind a large group of naysayers, hoping to inspiring people to support the amendment.

Hannah told me she is currently dating an amazing woman and hopes that their relationship will be able to reach the next stage. But she also mentioned the issues of same-sex relationships don’t just concern her, they also involve the next generation of young adults that are like her. In the future, she wants nobody to get bullied or sent to a clinic due to brutality. She hopes the outcome of the referendum will make her feel proud to be Irish.

今年20歲的Hannah站在街頭舉著標語呼籲民眾投下贊成票。Photo Credit:陳沂庭

20-year-old Hannah stands in the streets while holding a sign to encourage people to vote yes. Photo Credit:Chen Yiting (Chris)

In another part of Dublin, a 60-year-old couple showing support for the amendment slowly passed by me. When asked why they approved of same-sex marriage in Ireland, they simply said, “For equality.”

The outcome of the referendum in Ireland shows vigorous support for the amendment. Out of the 12 electoral districts in Dublin, 66% were in favor. Among those numbers, the southeastern districts had the highest number of supporters, reaching up to 75%.

In Taiwan, gay marriage is still illegal. Even though the first draft for marriage equality has been proposed by the Taiwan Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership Rights and Cheng Li-Chun, member of the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DDP) legislative committee, it is still not making headway towards approval nor is it progressing.

The opposing party wishes to hold a national poll on changing the marriage law. But the party in favor believes a topic on regarding human rights for a specific group should not be voted for through referendum, as it could lead to a deadlock between two parties.

Comparing the rules for holding a referendum in Ireland and Taiwan, Ireland only needs the majority to be in favor of changing the constitution. In Taiwan, the turnout rate of a poll must reach at least 50%, and the number of supporters has to be more than half of the voters in order for a poll to pass. The high voting threshold is the reason the party in favor of changing the constitution is afraid of conducting a referendum for same-sex marriage.

I believe the main reason same-sex marriage is not legal in Taiwan at the moment is lack of motivation to call for action within the Taiwanese society.

When looking back on previous campaigns to promote the legalization of gay marriage, besides the increase of people attending the annual gay parade, the partner alliance and other groups supporting gay rights have conducted several events to promote the idea.

Unfortunately, participants and spectators attending these events each year have not been able to surpass the amount of people active in the huge event organized by those disapproving same-sex marriage in 2013. This shows there is lack of interest to actively fight for gay rights, as most Taiwanese people feel these matters are of no concern to their lives.

Even the latest opinion polls conducted by the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy last year showed only 54% in favor of legalizing gay marriage.

伴侶盟去年在立法院旁舉辦「彩虹圍城」活動,參與者在地上彩繪標語。Photo Credit:陳沂庭

The Partnership Alliance Campaign in 2014. Participants drew colored gay-rights slogans on the street. Photo Credit: Chen Yiting (Chris)

My experiences in Ireland have led me to believe that whether or not citizens who took part in the referendum were part of the gay community, each of them was willing to actively share their opinions on the matter, which is exactly what will put an amendment like this on the road to success.

People from all over Ireland traveled back home to vote. On the day the results were officially announced, not only the gay community gathered together, but also many heterosexuals. They were all waiting patiently in hope of Ireland becoming a country that promotes equality.

After the poll passed, supporters waved their rainbow-colored flags ecstatically and cars started honking their horns. The entire city went crazy, drinking and partying all night in celebration.

On the afternoon of the vote count I was also standing in the crowd waiting for the result to be announced. It was hard not to get swept along in the cheering and tears of joy when looking at the people around me.

But ultimately, Ireland is not my country. I wonder if this unrestrained support for equality will occur in Taiwan and make the island the next country to advocate for same-sex marriage.

Note: To hold a referendum in Ireland, an issue can only be raised through parliament or the president. Citizens do not have the right to propose a referendum. The legal age to vote is 18. To pass a referendum, the majority of people needs to support it. In order for a referendum not to pass, it only needs one out of three opposing votes, for the opposition to overrule.

The author of this article has authorized publication. The original text was published on “Life”.

Translated by Sarah Grasdijk
Edited by Olivia Yang