Same-sex marriage in Taiwan
Same-sex marriage in Taiwan has been discussed since the 2000s. Currently, some jurisdictions in Taiwan allow same-sex couples to register as partners, though the rights afforded are often very limited. Bills to legalise same-sex marriage are currently pending in the Legislative Yuan. If they pass, it would make Taiwan the first country in Asia to allow same-sex marriage.
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.
Registration of same-sex couples
As of 11 January 2017, same-sex couples can legally register their partnerships in 11 of Taiwan’s cities and counties that account for 80 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 28 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 marks the first time that same-sex partnerships have 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, they 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. It came into effect on 14 March 2016. This made 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 it 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 Taiwanese Parliament, the Chiayi County Government opened registration for same-sex couples in Chiayi County, citing respect for diversity and equality.
Summary of jurisdictions that have opened registration 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|
(82% of Taiwan's population)
As of April 2016, more than 500 same-sex couples have registered their partnerships in the country.
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.
In 2003, the executive branch of the Taiwan Government (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), respected LGBT rights but said public support was needed before the Government could approve the law, thus it has been stalled since.
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.
On 23 October 2015, same-sex couples were included in Taoyuan's mass wedding ceremony despite same-sex marriage not been 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 next year's mass wedding ceremony.
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 legalize same-sex marriage was due to go under review by the Judiciary Committee. If the amendment passes the committee stage it will then be voted on at the plenary session of the Legislative Yuan in 2015. The amendment, called the marriage equality amendment, would insert neutral terms into the Civil Code replacing ones that imply heterosexual marriage, effectively legalizing same-sex marriage. It would also allow same-sex couples to adopt children. Yu Mei-nu of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), has expressed support for the amendment as have 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 referendum 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, thus making the legalization of same-sex marriage only possible through 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 made by mostly Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators (whose party has a majority in the Legislative Yuan) though was also supported 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. The drafter of the bill, Yu Mei-nu of the DPP, is optimistic the law can be introduced as early as next year and that same-sex marriage can 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 MP's, 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, which will likely happen sometime in April or May 2017.
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.
Public opinion on same-sex marriage is divided.
A poll of 6,439 Taiwanese adults released in April 2006 by the National Union of Taiwan Women's Association/Constitutional Reform Alliance concluded that 75% believe homosexual relations are acceptable, while 25% thought they were unacceptable.
A poll released in August 2013 shows that 53% of Taiwanese support 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.
Other polls suggest Taiwanese people are far more divided over same-sex marriage legalisation, with a November 2013 poll of 1,377 adults commissioned by cable news channel TVBS indicating the 45% oppose same-sex unions, while only 40% are 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, similarly, questioned the logic and arguments of the anti-gay opposition.
An opinion poll conducted in November 2016 by the Kuomintang found that 52% of the Taiwanese population support same-sex marriage, while 43% are opposed. According to Yu Mei-nu, drafter of one of the same-sex marriage bills, approximately 80% of young people in Taiwan support same-sex marriage.
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