Taiwan Marriage Equality Gathering Draws 200,000-plus Amid Fear Law Change Chances Sliding

Taiwan Marriage Equality Gathering Draws 200,000-plus Amid Fear Law Change Chances Sliding
What you need to know

Will President Tsai and the DPP listen?

Hundreds of thousands of Taiwanese took to the streets in Taipei this afternoon, calling on the government to enact marriage equality legislation.

Today’s public gathering, held in front of the Presidential Office Building, is seen as a critical point in the same-sex marriage campaign, which threatens to be derailed by loud opposition from religious groups and a lack of political will by government legislators and President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文).

As of about 4 p.m, there was more more than 200,000 people in attendance, event organizers told The News Lens International.

Last Saturday, an estimated 50,000 people, mostly dressed in white, gathered near the government buildings in the capital to show their opposition to the proposed marriage equality laws.

As Courtney Donovan Smith wrote in The News Lens this week, “You better be sure legislators will be watching [today’s protest] very, very closely to see which way the wind is blowing. If the numbers significantly dwarf that of the opposition rallies last weekend, then the issue is back in play. If the numbers aren’t so dramatically bigger, then the situation remains as it is now.”

In recent months, there were signs that legislation to amend Taiwan’s Civil Code by changing the wording that restricts marriage to a man and a woman could have been brought into law late this year or early in 2017. However, it remains uncertain whether there is enough support from lawmakers or the executive to secure the law change. There has been an added complication after a proposal for a separate law for same-sex couples, known as a civil partnership or civil union, was proposed.

This option would give some more weak-kneed supporters of marriage equality a way out politically," Donovan Smith noted. “The plan also seems to have gained traction with the wider public, who when asked the binary question of do-you-or-don’t-you support marriage equality the does reliably outnumber the don’ts, usually by majority.”

Opponents have proposed that the government drop the law entirely or hold a referendum on the issue.

Meanwhile, President Tsai has been slammed by some commentators for failing to give the country a strong direction on marriage equality, despite making the issue part of her campaign platform in the lead up to the January general election.

As lawyer M. Bob Kao said, “Tsai has chosen to stay on the sideline as the debate has been hijacked by religious conservatives and self-proclaimed protectors of traditional values who call for a national referendum to determine whether LGBTQ people should be treated equally by the law. These opponents liken the LGBTQ community to cockroaches and believe that legalizing same-sex marriage would have a domino effect, making society powerless to stop people marrying,” he says. “She has remained silent as advocates of "family values" target marriage equality activists. Even if marriage equality were to be realized this time around, which appears increasingly unlikely, the LGBTQ community will not easily forget Tsai’s betrayal.”

Today’s protest coincides with the international day for human rights. Also featuring at the rally is a line-up of popular Taiwan artists including Sandee Chen (陳珊妮), Dadado Huang (黃玠), HUSH, Liao Wen-chiang (廖文強). Well-known Hong Kong singer Denise Ho Wan-See (何韻詩) will also be making an appearance.

Read more analysis of the struggle for marriage equality in Taiwan:

It's Make or Break Time for Marriage Equality in Taiwan

My Marriage Equality Testimony (of Sorts)

Tsai's Betrayal: Politics Dampens Hope for Marriage Equality in Taiwan

Editor: Olivia Yang