In the past, same-sex relations was taboo but recent studies show attitudes are changing, said a taipeitimes.com report citing last year’s poll conducted by Academia Sinica showing 52 percent of those polled supporting same-sex marriage.
Another poll by the Taiwan Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership Rights showed 53 percent support and a 2011 CommonWealth Magazine poll even showed that 67 percent supported same-sex unions.
Marriage between same-sex couples is not legally recognized in Taiwan, although 3.5 to 5 percent of the population or at least 1.2 million of the 23.4 million people in Taiwan identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, reports taipeitimes.com.
However, opposition remains, as seen in last year’s rally against revising Article 972 of the Civil Code to change the term “man and woman” to “two parties” in the article concerning marriage and the term “father and mother” to “parents” in the Civil Code.
Advocates of same-sex marriage point to Article 7 of Taiwan’s Constitution, which states: “All citizens, irrespective of sex, religion, race, class or party affiliation, shall be equal before the law.”
Taiwan’s ban on marriage between same-sex couples is a clear violation of the constitution, says a gay man surnamed Shih who was married in a social event recently.
Opponents claim same-sex unions will threaten family values, something Shih disputes.
“A marriage brings greater responsibility. It is the union of two families after all, not just the people getting married, and I have become more mature and responsible,” he said.
“We also held the banquet publicly to please our parents… which symbolized that their kids have grown up and are moving toward the next stage in their lives. We just wanted to prove that this relationship was serious, and stop our parents from worrying,” he added.
These include property inheritance rights, hospital visitation rights, the right to make medical or healthcare decisions on behalf of one’s partner and greater access to insurance and credit.
“For us, obtaining legal protection is most important,” said a Taiwanese gay man, surnamed Tsai, who married his partner in the US in 2012. He said their unmarried gay friends did not even have hospital visitation rights when their partners fell ill.
Taiwan’s LGBT community and human rights activists have started to push for legal recognition of same-sex marriage recently and seven opposition legislators proposed three draft bills last year to promote “diverse family formation.”
Of the three, the first draft bill for marriage equality was the only one that passed the first reading at the Legislative Yuan as majority legislators from both ruling and opposition camps are opposed to it.
More recently, the Ministry of Education caused much controversy by appointing anti-gay advocates recommended by Chinese Nationalist Party Legislator Lai Shyh-bao as new members of its Gender Equity Education Committee.
“Amendments to the law would severely threaten traditional family values and ethics in Taiwan,” Lai had said.
David Wang, assistant professor at National Pingtung University of Education and a member of the committee, calls this absurd.
“How is it possible that the government appoints them to promote gender equality, when certain members have no respect for gender equality?” he asked.
According to Wang, Taiwan’s gay rights movement faces bias, discrimination and defamation.
What’s worse is that some “extremists” often collude with political forces to distort gender equality education, he said.
Marriage is not a privilege only for certain sections of the population,” Wang maintained.