3-Albie-Sachs-e1366733243944Taiwan:  A former South African Constitutional Court judge who was in Taiwan recently to receive the country’s top Tang Prize for rule of law said Taiwan could become a leader in openness if it were to the first in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage.

Tang Prize, also known as Asian Nobels, was first introduced in June this year in Taiwan and five  laureates received their award recently for the four categories of Sustainable Development, Biopharmaceutical Science, Sinology, and Rule of Law. The prize worth US$1.67 million was named after the Tang Dynasty and s seeks to bring about positive changes to the global community and to create a brighter future for all humanity

Judge Albie Sachs who was awarded for rule of law said it is “very heartening” to see that Taiwanese legislators have taken the first step to draft a bill on same-sex marriage.

“Many people feel that if Taiwan is the first Asian country to recognize same sex marriages in that way, it will say something very profound about the openness of the Taiwan society,” the 79-year-old said during a Sept 18 press conference according to taipeitimes.com. “It will make Taiwan a leader in terms of openness to recognizing human dignity in forms that were denied before, and bring a lot of distinction to Taiwan.”

Sachs however pointed out that he was speaking only as an outsider for it was something for local lawmakers to decide.

“Each country has to find its own way,” he said. “We found the South African way of dealing with the issue, and you will have to find the Taiwanese way,” he added.

During Sachs’ 1994 to 2009 tenure as a Constitutional Court judge, the court abolished the death penalty, overturned anti-gay laws and legalized marriage between same-sex couples.

In 2005 Sachs authored the court’s decision that legalized same-sex marriage in South Africa, making South Africa the fifth country to recognize such unions.

Sachs pointed out that people who oppose same-sex marriages have a different viewpoint but that this should not be allowed to determine the basic rights of same sex couples.

Marriage between same-sex couples is not legally recognized in Taiwan, although 3.5 to 5 percent or at least 1.2 million of the 23.4 million people in Taiwan identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

A draft bill that would legalize same-sex marriage cleared a first reading in the Legislative Yuan last year and was sent to the legislature’s Judiciary and Organic Laws and Statutes Committee for review.

However, since then, the bill’s progress has stalled, largely due to religious opposition 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.

Source: taipeitimes.com