Taiwan to hold public vote on special law for same-sex marriage

Taiwan to hold public vote on special law for same-sex marriage

A participant is wrapped in a LGBT flag as he takes part in LGBT pride parade in Taipei
A participant is wrapped in a LGBT flag as he takes part in a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) pride parade in Taipei, Taiwan, October 28, 2017. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

TAIPEI: Taiwan will hold a public vote on whether the island's civil law should recognise same-sex marriage, two election officials told Reuters on Tuesday (Oct 9), reviving a debate over whether a separate law should be created for marriagesbetween gay couples.

In Asia's first such ruling, the constitutional court declared in May last year that same-sex couples had the right to legally marry, and set a two-year deadline for legalisation.

But in August an activist group proposed a vote on the issue to the Central Election Commission, saying a separate law would defend "family values".

The Happiness of the Next Generation Alliance has put forward three referendum proposals.

According to Taipei Times, the first would ban same-sex marriage entirely, while the second would create a special law to provide some protection for same-sex couples - similar to domestic partnerships - through ways that do not require amending the Civil Code.

The third concerns homosexuality education in schools.

After a month-long review, the commission decided that the referendum will be held on Nov 24, the same day when Taiwan is set to hold mayoral and magisterial elections, two commission officials, who are familiar with the referendum plan but declined to be identified, told Reuters.

When approached by Reuters for comment, the commission's deputy minister, Chen Chao Jian, said it was not its practice to comment on individual proposals.

Welcoming the news of a referendum, David Tseng, chairman of a group opposed to same-sex marriage, the Coalition for the Happiness of Our Next Generation, said the issue would "entirely affect Taiwan's moral principles and family values."

Activists who have long campaigned for same-sex marriage called the referendum "discriminatory" since it went against the 2017 ruling that current laws violate the right to freedom of marriage and equality.

"As Taiwanese, we feel sorry but we don't have time and room for disappointment," said Jennifer Lu, coordinator of Marriage Equality Coalition Taiwan.

LGBT activists say President Tsai Ing-wen's government promised marriage equality during the 2016 election campaign but has made little progress on the issue.

Society is still divided on same-sex marriage, Tsai said this year, but the government would abide by the constitutional court ruling of May 2017.

Source: Reuters/CNA/aj