Same-sex marriage in Taiwan
Same-sex marriage is not legal in Taiwan. However, on 24 May 2017, the Constitutional Court ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry under the Constitution and that the Legislative Yuan has two years to amend the marriage laws to align with the Constitution. According to the Judicial Yuan Interpretation No. 748, if this is not done, same-sex couples will be able to have their unions registered as marriages and be treated as such by law. At present, a number of jurisdictions, including the nine largest cities and nine other counties, covering 94% of the country's population, allow same-sex couples to register as partners, though the rights afforded by such registrations are less than marriage.
Following the Constitutional Court ruling, progress on implementing a same-sex marriage law was stalled due to inaction from the Government and strong opposition from conservative and Christian groups. In November 2018, the Taiwanese electorate voted against changing the Civil Code to allow for same-sex marriage. However, the Government has confirmed that the ruling will go into effect regardless of the referendum results, by the drawing up of a separate law to legalise same-sex marriage instead of amending the Civil Code.
On 21 February 2019, the Executive Yuan passed a draft bill, entitled the Enforcement Act of Judicial Yuan Interpretation No. 748, which was released on the previous day. The draft bill serves as the legal basis for same-sex marriages and has been sent to the Legislative Yuan for fast-tracked review before being enacted on 24 May 2019. The draft bill confers to same-sex married couples almost all the rights granted to heterosexual married couples under the Civil Code, but it only allows same-sex couples to adopt children that are genetically related to one of them. Taiwan would become the first country in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage.
- 1 Registration of same-sex couples in municipalities and counties
- 2 Same-sex marriage
- 2.1 History
- 3 Public opinion
- 4 See also
- 5 Notes
- 6 References
Registration of same-sex couples in municipalities and counties
As of 3 July 2017, same-sex couples can legally register their relationships, through special partnership registrations (Chinese: 同性伴侶註記),[a] in 18 of Taiwan's cities and counties that account for 94 percent of the country's population. However, the rights afforded in these partnerships are very limited; there are as many as 498 exclusive rights related to marriage that include property rights, social welfare and medical care.
On 20 May 2015, the special municipality of Kaohsiung announced a plan to allow same-sex couples to mark their partners in civil documents for reference purposes, although it would not be applicable to the healthcare sector; Taiwan LGBT Rights Advocacy, an NGO, criticized the plan as merely a measure to "make fun of" the community without having any substantive effect.
In July 2015, Taichung announced it would be joining Taipei and Kaohsiung in recognizing same-sex partnerships. This made Taichung the third special municipality to do so. Same-sex couples began to register their partnerships on 1 October 2015.
On October 2015, same-sex couples were included in Taoyuan's mass wedding ceremony despite same-sex marriage not being legal in Taiwan. This was the first time same-sex couples were able to participate in this twice-yearly event. Taipei followed suit one day later. On 28 October 2015, the Taichung City Government announced that same-sex couples would be permitted to participate in the next year's mass wedding ceremony.
In December 2015, the city governments of Taipei and Kaohsiung announced an agreement to share their same-sex partnership registries with each other effective 1 January 2016, allowing for partnerships registered in one special municipality to be recognized in the other. This marked the first time that same-sex partnerships had been recognized outside of single-municipality boundaries.
Activists protested on 18 December 2015 inside the Tainan City Council to lobby for a similar registry in Tainan. On 27 January 2016, Mayor William Lai announced that same-sex couples would be allowed to officially register their partnership in Tainan. Same-sex couples were able to begin registering on 1 February 2016.
On 23 February 2016, Mayor Twu Shiing-jer announced that Chiayi City would be opening registration for same-sex couples, effective 1 March 2016. Chiayi City became the first of the three provincial cities of Taiwan to recognize same-sex couples. However, there are more restrictions: both partners must be residents of the city and they will not be able to list their relationships on their household certificates.
On 28 January 2016, the Mayor of Taoyuan declared that his special municipality is open to the possibility of a registry. On 7 March 2016, Tang Hui-chen, director of the Department of Civil Affairs at the Taoyuan City Government, said that based on gender equality, basic human rights and respect for same-sex relationships, the Government has decided to allow same-sex couples to register as same-sex partners to protect their rights. The registration began on 14 March 2016, making Taoyuan the sixth as well as the last special municipality in Taiwan to officially recognize same-sex couples.
On 18 March 2016, the Department of Civil Affairs at the Changhua County Government declared that based on respect and tolerance for same-sex couples, Changhua County had decided to open registration for same-sex couples. Couples who wish to register must be at least twenty years old and one partner must be from the county. The first couple registered the day the registration came into effect, on 1 April 2016.
Since 1 April 2016, same-sex couples living in Hsinchu County can go to any government office to register their relationship. Hsinchu County along with Changhua County became on the same day the first two of the thirteen counties of Taiwan to officially register same-sex couples.
On 19 May 2016, the Yilan County Government decided to allow same-sex couples to register with any of the twelve household registration offices in the county, making Yilan County the third county to do so. Registration began the following day, on 20 May 2016.
On 20 October 2016, five days before a same-sex marriage bill was introduced in the Legislative Yuan, the Chiayi County Government opened registration for same-sex couples in Chiayi County, citing respect for diversity and equality.
On 26 May 2017, the Ministry of the Interior sent letters to all the local governments that had yet not opened registration for same-sex couples, asking them to do so. By 6 June, Hsinchu City, Kinmen County, Lienchiang County, Miaoli County, Nantou County and Pingtung County had announced their intention to comply, with household registration services to open later that month or early July. Keelung City followed suit on 3 July 2017. In addition, areas that recognise same-sex partnership registration began accepting applications from other areas on 3 July. By 4 July, three same-sex couples had registered in Keelung.
In September 2017, activists protested in Hualien and Taitung counties for the opening of registration services for same-sex couples.
Summary of jurisdictions
The following jurisdictions have opened registration schemes to same-sex couples:
|Name||Status||Population||Date of entry into force|
|Kaohsiung||Special municipality||2,778,729||20 May 2015|
|Taipei||Special municipality||2,704,974||17 June 2015|
|Taichung||Special municipality||2,746,112||1 October 2015|
|Tainan||Special municipality||1,885,550||1 February 2016|
|New Taipei||Special municipality||3,971,250||1 February 2016|
|Chiayi City||Provincial city||270,273||1 March 2016|
|Taoyuan||Special municipality||2,108,786||14 March 2016|
|Changhua County||County||1,289,295||1 April 2016|
|Hsinchu County||County||542,513||1 April 2016|
|Yilan County||County||458,037||20 May 2016|
|Chiayi County||County||519,482||20 October 2016|
|Nantou County||County||514,315||26 June 2017|
|Pingtung County||County||839,001||29 June 2017|
|Hsinchu City||Provincial city||434,674||3 July 2017|
|Keelung City||Provincial city||371,878||3 July 2017|
|Kinmen County||County||127,723||3 July 2017|
|Lienchiang County||County||12,506||3 July 2017|
|Miaoli County||County||567,132||3 July 2017|
(94% of Taiwan's population)
As of April 2016, more than 500 same-sex couples have registered their partnerships in the country.
By the end of July 2016, there were 118 same-sex couples who had registered in Taoyuan. Of these, 93 were lesbian couples and 25 were gay male couples.
272 same-sex couples had registered their partnerships in Taipei by the end of November 2016. According to Victoria Hsu, president of the Taiwan Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership Rights, almost 2,000 same-sex couples had registered in the whole country by December 2016.
According to statistics published by the Ministry of the Interior, approximately 2,150 same-sex couples had registered by May 2017. Partnerships between women outnumbered those between men: 1,703 to 439. By December 2018, this number had increased to 3,951 couples.
In 2003, the Executive Yuan proposed legislation granting marriages to same-sex couples under the Human Rights Basic Law; but the bill was rejected and was not passed into law because of the opposition of legislators in 2006.
President Ma Ying-jeou, Chairman of the governing Kuomintang (KMT), previously stated he respected LGBT rights but said public support was needed before the Government could approve a same-sex marriage law.
In August 2012, two women participated in what the media called Taiwan's first same-sex marriage ceremony.
The Ministry of Justice's Department of Legal Affairs commissioned a study on legal recognitions of same-sex unions in Canada, Germany and France in 2012, but after pressure from critics, commissioned a further study for 2013 on the state of same-sex relationships in Asian countries for comparison.
Su Tseng-chang, Chairman of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), has expressed support for same-sex marriage. Despite some division within the party on the issue, DPP's victorious presidential candidate for the January 2016 election, Tsai Ing-wen, announced her support of same-sex marriage in November 2015.
Judicial determinations (2012)
In March 2012, a same-sex couple, Ching-Hsueh Chen (Nelson) 陳敬學 and Chih-Wei Kao (Johnson) 高治瑋, applied to the Taipei High Administrative Court to have their marriage recognized. The first hearing took place on April 10, 2012. The couple was accompanied by their mothers and received the personal blessings from the judges for their love, although the judges said that wouldn't have any repercussions in their final ruling. The next hearing was set to take place a month later, and the court was due to hand down a decision on December 20. Instead, the court reneged on a ruling, opting to send the case to the Council of Grand Justices in the Judicial Yuan for a constitutional interpretation. The case was then voluntarily withdrawn by the couple due to the hesitancy of the judiciary in taking on the case.
Eighth Legislative Yuan (2012–16)
On 25 October 2013, a petition-initiated bill to revise the Civil Code to allow for same-sex couples to be eligible for marriage was introduced by 23 lawmakers from the DPP in the Legislative Yuan. It was immediately referred to the Yuan's Judicial Committee for review and possible first reading.
On 22 December 2014, a proposed amendment to the Civil Code which would have legalized same-sex marriage was due to go under review by the Judiciary Committee. If the amendment had passed the committee stage it would have then been voted on at the plenary session of the Legislative Yuan in 2015. The amendment, called the marriage equality amendment, would have inserted neutral terms into the Civil Code replacing ones that imply heterosexual marriage, effectively legalizing same-sex marriage. It would have also allowed same-sex couples to adopt children. Yu Mei-nu, of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), expressed support for the amendment as did more than 20 other DPP lawmakers as well as two from the Taiwan Solidarity Union and one each from the Kuomintang and the People First Party. Taiwan would become the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage if the Civil Code is amended.
On 28 June 2015, a senior Ministry of Justice official stated same-sex marriage would remain illegal in Taiwan "for now". Deputy Minister of Justice Chen Ming-tang said "...in Taiwan, the issue of legalizing same-sex marriage remains extremely controversial...so we should not consider it for now". He added that while the Ministry of Justice opposes measures that would legalize same-sex marriages outright, it would support a more gradual approach, including offering better protection to same-sex couples under current laws, such as their rights to equal medical treatment and taxation.
The January 2016 Taiwanese general election resulted in a parliamentary majority for the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), the majority of whose legislators in the Yuan support the legalisation of same-sex marriage.
Ninth Legislative Yuan (2016–present)
On 23 February 2016, the Referendum Review Committee rejected a proposal put forward by the Faith and Hope League on the grounds that it failed to meet requirements. The proposal would have amended the Civil Code by stating that husband and wife relationships, consanguinity and the principles of human relations cannot be amended unless the public agrees via a referendum. Had it been approved, the legalization of same-sex marriage would have only been possible through a referendum. The committee voted 10-1 against the proposal. Chairman of the committee, Wang Kao-cheng, said it was rejected for two reasons: one, that the proposed was not a law, a legislative principle, important policy or constitutional amendment and therefore does not meet the requirement of the Referendum Act; and two, the proposal was about revising several provisions of the Civil Code, which does not meet the law’s requirement that a referendum should be about a single issue.
In July 2016, some Taiwanese legislators announced that they would introduce a same-sex marriage bill in Parliament by the end of 2016. On 25 October 2016, at least a dozen legislators announced they had submitted a new amendment to the Civil Code which would legalise same-sex marriage in Taiwan. The proposed amendment was mostly supported by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators (whose party has a majority in the Legislative Yuan) though also by one legislator from the minority Kuomintang, (KMT) which is divided on the issue of same-sex marriage. A separate amendment legalising same-sex marriage was also announced by the third-party New Power Party caucus. Yu Mei-nu of the DPP, who drafted the bill, expressed optimism the law could be introduced as early as the following year and that same-sex marriage could be legal in the country by the end of 2017. On 29 October, President Tsai Ing-wen reaffirmed her support for same-sex marriage. On 31 October 2016, the Executive Yuan (the executive branch of the Government) Secretary-General, Chen Mei-ling, stated that the Executive supports same-sex marriage and that Premier Lin Chuan has urged the Ministry of Justice to take action on the issue. Two draft amendments to Taiwan's Civil Code which would legalise same-sex marriage and same-sex adoption passed their first reading in the Legislative Yuan on 8 November 2016. Both bills were immediately referred to the Judiciary and Organic Laws and Statutes Committee for discussion.
The committee discussed the proposals on 17 November 2016 and was sharply divided. Kuomintang (KMT) and People First Party (PFP) representatives demanded a nationwide series of hearings be held over a number of months on the issue, while DPP legislators wanted the bills to be reviewed and immediately proceeded with. Following a number of physical scuffles between the MPs, the committee eventually agreed to hold two public hearings on the issue over the following two weeks; one hearing chaired by a KMT representative and another hearing chaired by a DPP representative. Several thousand opponents and supporters of same-sex marriage protested outside the Parliament on the Taipei streets whilst the committee was meeting.
In early December 2016, "tens of thousands" of opponents of same-sex marriage demonstrated in the cities of Taipei, Taichung and Kaohsiung. Less than a week later, close to 250,000 supporters of same-sex marriage gathered in front of the Presidential Office in Taipei, calling on the Government to legalise same-sex marriage promptly.
On 26 December 2016, the Legislature's Judiciary and Organic Laws and Statutes Committee completed and passed its examination of the same-sex marriage bills. They must now pass second and third readings before becoming law. In October 2017, Taiwanese Premier William Lai said that the Government "is not giving up its effort to present a proposal before the end of the year to legalize same-sex marriage". Eventually, the bills stalled and were not voted upon.
Constitutional Court ruling (2017)
In March 2017, the full panel of the Constitutional Court heard a case brought by gay rights activist Chi Chia-wei (whose attempt at registering a marriage with his partner in 2013 was rejected) and the Taipei City Government's Department of Civil Affairs. Taipei City, a special municipality, had originally referred the question of constitutionality to the Court for resolution in July 2015. Both requested a constitutional interpretation on the issue and asked the court to focus on whether Taiwan's Civil Code should allow same-sex marriage and if not, whether that violates articles under the Constitution of the Republic of China pertaining to equality and the freedom to marry.
|Wikinews has related news: Taiwan's Constitutional Court legalizes gay marriage, gives legislators two years to amend marriage laws|
The court issued its ruling on 24 May 2017, finding that the statutory ban on same-sex marriage in Taiwan's Civil Code was "in violation of both the people’s freedom of marriage as protected by Article 22 and the people's right to equality as guaranteed by Article 7 of the Constitution." The court requested that the Legislative Yuan amend existing laws or create new laws so as to comply with the court's decision, and gave it two years from the date of the ruling to do so. The accompanying official press release from the court stated that if the Legislature fails to amend the law within the two-year time frame, then "two persons of the same-sex...may apply for marriage registration [and] shall be accorded the status of a legally recognised couple, and then enjoy the rights and bear the obligations arising on couples".
As a result of the ruling, the Legislative Yuan can simply amend the existing marriage laws to include same-sex couples, thereby granting them the same rights enjoyed by married opposite-sex couples, or it could elect to pass a new law recognising same-sex marriages or civil partnerships but giving said couples only some of the rights attributed to marriage.
Response to the ruling (2017-18)
In response to the ruling, Cabinet spokesman Hsu Kuo-yung said the Executive Yuan would draft a proposal for revising the laws for the Legislative Yuan to consider, though had not yet decided whether to amend the Civil Code to include same-sex couples in the definition of marriage or create a separate and distinct law specifically addressing same-sex marriages. Further to that, Presidential Office Secretary-General Joseph Wu responded favourably to the ruling and said it was binding on all Taiwanese nationals and all levels of government.
By June 2017, the Executive had requested that government agencies relax restrictions on same-sex couples, to entitle them to rights accorded to married couples, such as signing medical consent forms, asking for family care leave and visiting imprisoned partners. The Secretary-General of the Executive, Chen Mei-ling, stated that the Cabinet had not decided on how to legalize same-sex marriages — by amending the Civil Code, by establishing a special section of the Civil Code or by creating a special law. Since then, the Government has delayed consideration of same-sex marriage legislation in the Legislature, resulting in implementation of the court's ruling being pushed back.
In response to the ruling, 22 members of the Yunlin County Council (which has 43 members) filed a motion to impeach Hsu Tzong-li, the President of the Judicial Yuan, and the others judges who ruled in favor of same-sex marriage. The Deputy Speaker, who signed the motion, claimed that "marriages between same-sex couples will have a huge impact on the society and social order" and that the ruling had caused "disappointment and concern".
In December 2017, the Taipei Administrative Court ruled that same-sex couples cannot marry until the Civil Code is amended or until 24 May 2019, when the Constitutional Court ruling will go into effect.
In January 2018, opponents of same-sex marriage filed an appeal with the Supreme Administrative Court, seeking to annul the May 2017 decision. The appeal was quickly rejected by the Court. They filed a second appeal in February.
November 2018 referendum
In February 2018, a group opposed to same-sex marriage, the Alliance for Next Generation's Happiness, proposed holding a referendum on the issue of same-sex marriage, which requires collecting about 280,000 signatures (1.5% of eligible voters) for the initiative to be presented to the voters. Firstly, however, the group had to collect 1,879 valid signatures. This would then enable them to proceed with collecting the 280,000 signatures. By April 2018, the group had collected 3,100 signatures, and the Central Election Commission (CEC) validated the signatures later that month.
The group wanted the three following questions to be presented to Taiwanese voters:
- "Do you agree with using means other than the marriage regulations in the Civil Code to protect the rights of two people of the same gender to build a permanent life together?"
- "Do you agree that the marriage regulations in the Civil Code should define marriage as between a man and a woman?"
- "Do you agree that during the elementary and junior high school stage, the Ministry of Education and schools at all levels should not implement same-sex education as stipulated in the Gender Equity Education Act's implementation rules?"
In late August 2018, the Alliance for Next Generation's Happiness announced it had collected 678,000 signatures, which were then vetted and approved by the CEC. In September, a group in favour of same-sex marriage announced it had collected more than 600,000 signatures to submit its own questions to a referendum, which are the following:
- "Do you agree that the Civil Code marriage regulations should be used to guarantee the rights of same sex couples to get married?"
- "Do you agree that gender equity education as defined in 'the Gender Equity Education Act' should be taught at all stages of the national curriculum and that such education should cover courses on emotional education, sex education and gay and lesbian education?"
The referendum proposals were also approved by the CEC, and a public vote was held on 24 November 2018. On 24 November, Taiwanese voters approved the three initiatives launched by the Alliance for Next Generation's Happiness and rejected the two pro-LGBT initiatives, by wide margins. The week before the vote, the Government announced that the Constitutional Court ruling will still go into effect in May 2019, regardless of the referendum results. On 25 November 2018, the Executive Yuan's spokeswoman, Kolas Yotaka, stated that a draft of a special law to regulate same-sex marriages will be submitted to the Legislative Yuan within three months. On 29 November, the Judicial Yuan Secretary-General stated that the referendum results cannot override the 2017 ruling. The following day, the Premier confirmed that the Government will prepare a special law on the matter. On 5 December, the Minister of Justice, Tsai Ching-hsiang, said that a bill would be introduced before 1 March 2019.
Enforcement Act of Judicial Yuan Interpretation No. 748
On 20 February 2019, the Executive Yuan published a draft bill, entitled The Enforcement Act of Judicial Yuan Interpretation No. 748 (Chinese: 司法院釋字第748號解釋施行法),[b] which allows two persons of the same sex to create a "permanent union of intimate and exclusive nature for the committed purpose of managing a life together to realise the equal protection of the freedom of marriage". It covers topics such as inheritance rights, medical rights, and adoption of the biological children of their partner. The draft bill also sets penalties for adultery and bigamy, similar to opposite-sex marriages. The bill does not amend the existing marriage laws in the Civil Code, but rather creates a separate law. The bill was approved by the Executive Yuan on 21 February 2019 and then sent to the Legislative Yuan for passage, before taking effect on 24 May. It has been well received by LGBT groups, but denounced by conservative organizations. New Power Party (NPP) legislator Freddy Lim presented his own bill to legalize same-sex marriage on 21 February.
The Ministry of Justice has stated that the draft bill would be subject to further amendments, including on issues such as transnational marriages (which it does not yet address) and assisted reproduction. Another difference between same-sex and opposite-sex marriages will be the minimum required age. Currently, women can get married at 16 and men at 18. Under the proposed bill, same-sex couples could get married from the age of 18, but would require parental consent if under 20.
A poll of 6,439 Taiwanese adults released in April 2006 by the National Union of Taiwan Women's Association/Constitutional Reform Alliance found that 75% believed homosexual relations were acceptable, while 25% thought they were unacceptable.
A poll released in August 2013 showed that 53% of Taiwanese supported same-sex marriage, with 37% opposed. Among people aged between 20 and 29, support was at 78%. The main source of opposition was in the Taiwanese Christian community - only 25% of Christians supported same-sex marriage. Some Taiwanese Christian pastors have expressed support for the LGBT community. A November 2013 poll of 1,377 adults commissioned by cable news channel TVBS indicated that 45% opposed same-sex unions, while 40% were in favour.
An opinion poll released in December 2014 showed that 54 percent of the Taiwanese people would support the legalization of same-sex marriage, while 44.6 percent were not in favor.
When a religious and conservative coalition opposed to same-sex marriage launched a petition for public support of their position, a staff editorial from the English-language China Post questioned the logic of the opponents' arguments and endorsed the legalization of same-sex marriage as "a huge step forward in the fight for universal equality akin to ending apartheid". The Taipei Times also questioned the logic and arguments of the opposition.
An opinion poll conducted in November 2016 by the Kuomintang found that 52% of the Taiwanese population supported same-sex marriage, while 43% were opposed. Another poll commissioned that same month found similar numbers: 55% in support, and 45% in opposition. Support was highest among 20-29-year-olds (80%), but decreased significantly with age.
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