Following Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) victory in the Jan. 16 general elections, many human rights observers in Taiwan and abroad cherished the possibility that Taiwan could become the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage. To distinguish itself from the more conservative Kuomintang (KMT) in the lead-up to the elections, Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) made this subject a component of its platform, and a large contingent of party members were instructed to take part in last year’s LGBT Pride Parade in Taipei.
For years, and despite the unflagging dedication of a number of DPP legislators like Yu Mei-nu (尤美女), moves to legalize same-sex unions in Taiwan were ostensibly blocked by the KMT, which had control of both the executive and legislative branches of government, and a small albeit vocal, connected and resourceful group of conservative Christians.
Following the DPP’s victory in the presidential and legislative elections on Jan. 16, the way seemed finally clear to pass the necessary legislation and make Taiwan a true leader in LGBT and human rights in Asia. In the dozens of interviews that I gave to international media before, during and after the elections, the possibility of legalization was a question that I was asked again and again.
But since then, the Tsai administration has stalled and seems to have de-prioritized the matter, leading some to conclude that the DPP had simply exploited the issue for electoral gain.
Since May 20, the administration has not done anything to expedite passage of the bill. After months of uncertainty, the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) recently sent a missive to legislators informing them that a draft law is to be submitted to the Executive Yuan in September 2017. Despite clear indications that society is ready to move into the 21st century on the issue, the MOJ has commissioned a study to analyze the impact of legalization on society. The results are to be rendered by the end of this year.
The idea that a study is even needed to assess the impact of widening the scope of human rights plays right into the narrative, propagated by opponents of legalization, which would have us believe that same-sex marriage would be detrimental to society. It doesn’t matter that every point of the conservatives’ scare tactics — from the spread of AIDS to an epidemic of bestiality — has been debunked by anyone who has sufficient cognitive abilities to think critically. Whether it’s under the KMT or the DPP, the MOJ feels compelled to spend taxpayer money to conduct a study.
Equally irritating is the fact that the Tsai administration isn’t pushing for a Marriage Equality Act (婚姻平權法), but rather a Same-Sex Partnership Act (同性伴侶法), which while legalizing same-sex unions puts such marriages in a distinct category for no valid reason whatsoever. This is not good enough for the men and women whose love and desire to form a family are of equal weight as those of heterosexuals. One cannot say that love is love only to turn around and create different categories of love. Legislator Yu herself argues that nothing less than a Marriage Equality Act is what is in order.
Riding on the promise of change, the Tsai administration’s batting average since it took office is hardly spectacular. Passing a law that would make all marriages between consenting adults equal is something it can accomplish early on in its first term and which would positively affect the lives of thousands upon thousands of individuals in Taiwan. It would also demonstrate to the world that Taiwan is indeed a leader in Asia in the defense and promotion of human rights.
There is absolutely no need to delay until September 2017 before submitting something to the Executive Yuan, and absolutely no reason why the bill should be a diluted version of a bona fide Marriage Equality Act.
First Editor: Edward White
Second Editor: Olivia Yang