'Family' Group Hassles Taipei School over Rainbow Flag

'Family' Group Hassles Taipei School over Rainbow Flag
Photo Credit: Ludovic Bertron@ CC BY-SA 2.0

What you need to know

The battle against intolerance in Taiwan looks set to continue.

A prominent anti-gay rights group in Taiwan has been criticized after it demanded a high school stop prominently displaying a large "rainbow" banner.

Students at a high school in Taipei last week raised the banner, the international symbol of LGBT rights, ahead of a graduation ceremony held on June 3.

According to a local media report, in the days before the ceremony, members of the Defend Family Student League (捍衛家庭學生聯盟), a group linked to conservative religious organizations, contacted the high school urging it to remove the flag.

The banner was taken down earlier this week. Students have complained it was removed earlier than planned because of the pressure put on the school by the league. The school reportedly discussed the issue with students on Monday and resolved to take down the flag.

The rainbow flag at the center of the controversy. Image from the Defend Family Student League's Facebook page.

Gay rights advance in Taiwan

The issue comes less than two weeks after a landmark court decision paved the way for Taiwan to become the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage.

On May 24, in a major decision that made waves around the world, Taiwan’s Constitutional Court said the current ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.

The court said Taiwan's current Civil Code, which says an agreement to marry could only be made between a man and a woman, "violated" the constitution's guarantees of freedom of marriage and people's equality, AFP reported at the time.

It gave Taiwan's government two years to implement the ruling. If parliament does not make the change within two years, the court said same-sex couples could register to marry regardless, based on its interpretation.

The push for equal marriage rights has gathered momentum in Taiwan with hundreds of thousands rallying in support in recent months.

But there has also been anger among conservative groups, who have staged mass protests against any change to the marriage law.

A timeline of the struggle for same-sex marriage in Taiwan:

  • 1986: Chi Chia-wei requests notarized marriage between two males. He is the first person in Taiwan to call for the legalization of same-sex marriage in Taiwan, and his request is denied by the government.
  • 1996: Author Hsu Yu-sheng (許佑生) and his Uruguayan partner Gray Harriman hold Taiwan’s first public gay wedding ceremony.
  • 2000: Chi Chia-wei requests a constitutional interpretation on same-sex marriage, but is rejected by the Grand Justices.
  • 2006: Democratic Progressive Party legislator Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) proposes a same-sex marriage law, but it does not pass the first reading.
  • 2011: Gay rights activist Nelson Chen (陳敬學) and his partner Kao Chih-wei (高治瑋) filed an administrative lawsuit for official recognition of their marriage at the Taipei High Court. They withdrew the suit in January 2013.
  • 2013: The Taiwan Alliance to Promote Partnership Rights drafts a marriage equality bill, a civil partnership bill, and a family bill. The bills passed a first reading in October. The bill stalls after protests from anti-LGBT groups.
  • 2014: The Legislative Yuan’s Judiciary and Organic Laws and Statutes Committee reviews the marriage equality bill, the first time in Asia a marriage equality bill is heard at a parliament. However, the review ends with no clear conclusion.
  • October 2016: Jacques Picoux, a French professor at the National Taiwan University commits suicide, sparking renewed interest in LGBT rights in Taiwan.
  • November 2016: Draft amendments to the Civil Code to allow same-sex marriage proposed by DPP legislator Yu Mei-nu (尤美女) pass the first reading at the Legislative Yuan.
  • December 2016: Legislator Yu Mei-nu’s draft amendments pass a review by the Legislative Yuan’s Judiciary and Organic Laws and Statutes Committee, making it the first same-sex marriage bill to pass reviews at the Legislative Yuan.
  • March 24, 2017: Taiwan’s Constitutional Court holds a hearing to debate the constitutionality of the Civil Code.
  • May 24: Constitutional Court verdict announced.

Additional reporting by AFP.

Editor: Olivia Yang