TAIPEI (CNA) — More than 35,000 people took to the streets of Taipei on May 17, urging lawmakers to legalize same-sex marriage in a plenary session of the Legislature (Legislative Yuan) that was scheduled to vote on three competing bills on the issue in the morning session.
The gay marriage supporters surrounded the Legislature in rainy weather, holding banners and placards, cheering for pro-gay marriage lawmakers as they entered the Legislature building, and calling on the government not to discriminate against same-sex couples wanting to get married.
“We hope this is the last time all of us – supporters of marriage equality and gay rights advocates – will have to stand here,” Jennifer Lu (呂欣潔), chief coordinator of the Marriage Equality Coalition Taiwan, said at a press conference outside the Legislature.
“We hope that after today, we will no longer have to ask for leave of absence and put our lives on hold so we can be here, fighting for our rights,” she said minutes before the plenary legislative session started at 9 a.m.
At this historic moment, on International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia, lawmakers should hold their ground and vote to make marriage possible for gay couples in Taiwan, Lu said.
Lawmakers were due to vote Friday morning on three same-sex relationship bills that will determine the type of relationship gay couples will be allowed to have, how the two partners will be legally described, and whether one partner will be allowed to adopt the non-biological children of the other.
Under Constitutional Court Interpretation No. 748, lawmakers are required to deliver a legal solution before May 24 on same-sex marriage, which is not allowed in Taiwan at the moment.
Meanwhile, several transnational couples also gathered outside the Legislature Friday, calling on lawmakers to allow same-sex couples from different countries to get married in Taiwan.
“Love transcends national boundaries; let’s start a family together,” they chanted, throwing their support behind the Cabinet’s draft bill on the issue.
“We beg you to vote yes on marriage for same-sex transnational couples,” said Chien Chih-chieh (簡至潔), secretary-general of the Taiwan Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership Rights.
During cross-party negotiations earlier in the week, the New Power Party (NPP) put forth a motion to amend the Cabinet’s draft bill to allow transnational couples to get married in Taiwan.
The motion would exempt such couples from the regulations stipulated in the Act Governing the Choice of Law in Civil Matters Involving Foreign Elements, which states that the marriage of a transnational couple is governed by the laws of their respective countries.
Under that act as it exists, even if same-sex marriage is legalized in Taiwan, a Taiwanese national would not be able to enter into a legally recognized union with a partner from a country where gay marriage is not legal.
In a tweet Friday morning, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) called on lawmakers to “show the world that #LoveWins.” “Today, we have a chance to make history & show the world that progressive values can take root in an East Asian society,” she tweeted.
On the other side of the issue, Tseng Hsien-ying (曾獻瑩), president of the Coalition for the Happiness of Our Next Generation, said at a press conference near the Legislature on Friday that a motion put forward by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus the previous day to amend the Cabinet’s same-sex marraige bill was unacceptable.
“It’s merely old wine in a new bottle,” Tseng said, referring to the DPP motion to remove the more sensitive term “same-sex marriage” from the Cabinet’s draft bill.
The Cabinet draft bill should be amended to state that two people of the same gender are permitted to “register a marriage” in accordance with the spirit of Constitutional Court Interpretation No. 748, the DPP caucus proposed.
Teng said, however, that the government is trampling on the will of the people, which was made clear in the referendum results last November when a majority, or 7.65 million Taiwanese, voted in favor of retaining the Civil Code’s definition of marriage as between a man and a woman.
By Stacy Hsu