TAIPEI (The China Post/ANN) — Taiwan LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) community and other civic movements fought for years for gender equality until the Cabinet (Executive Yuan) proposed the bill for “Enforcement Act of Judicial Yuan Interpretation No. 748,” which gave marriage rights to same-sex couples. But do you know how it all started?
Many attribute the starting of the gay movement in Taiwan to the “coming out” of Chih Chia-Wei (祁家威) in 1986. Chih is the first entertainer who openly shared his homosexuality on national television. His press conference launched an open discussion in Taiwan society and enticed an increasing number of people to dedicate their lives to fighting for LGBT rights.
The first lesbian organization was founded in 1990 as an increasing number of gay/lesbian clubs started to advertise themselves to the public. At the same time, more people conducted academic research on gender and queer studies. The Internet started growing and many Websites were created by people in the LGBT community to connect to a wider audience.
While LGBT organizations were on the rise, Taiwan was also making a major shift toward democracy and freedom of speech. It was an awakening for other social movements as well, including the indigenous people and labor rights activists who embarked on campaigns to claim their rights in a then conservative society.
With the same observation in mind, Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline Association (TTHA, 同志諮詢熱線協會) was established in 1998 to help LGBT people and advocate gay rights. It was registered as a non-government organization (NGO) in 2000 and held its first gay pride on Nov. 1, 2003, making it the first pride parade in Asia — ‘Taiwan LGBT Pride’ is held on the last Saturday of October every year.
Legislator Hsiao Mei-chin (蕭美琴) then introduced a draft for equal-marriage in 2006. Even though it didn’t make through the procedure committee, meaning that it was never discussed in the parliament (Legislative Yuan), it was the first bill for same-sex marriage introduced in Taiwan. Since then, many legislators and civic organizations tried to achieve the goal of legalizing same-sex marriage, but to no avail until 2015.
Chih appealed to the Taipei City government in 2013 after being denied marriage several times. Two years later the Department of Civil Affairs referred the case to the Constitutional Court for a constitutional interpretation on whether civil codes were violating the constitution by restricting marriage to heterosexual couples.
The Civil Code states: “An agreement to marry shall be made by the male and the female parties in their own concord.” The result of this landmark gay-marriage case came out two years later. On May 24, 2017, the Constitutional Court ruled the Interpretation No.748 that the civil code’s restriction on marriage had been unconstitutional, and further ruled that legislation has to allow same-sex couples the same marriage rights within two years.
The new interpretation of the constitution didn’t please the conservative side who protested against the legalization. They argued that the change in the civil codes would destroy the core value of family in the Taiwanese culture.
Both pro-gay and anti-gay movements held a referendum in 2018 where each party proposed to vote for or against the change of civil codes. Conservatives won and the LGBT community got frustrated.
Meanwhile, the Interpretation No.748 was out there stating that same-sex marriage must become legal by the deadline. The government got caught up between the interpretation and the result of the referendum. However, The Legislation Yuan passed the bill on May 17, 2019, making same-sex marriage legal in Taiwan and the couples were able to start registering for the marriage on May 24, 2019. This enforcement act makes Taiwan the first country in Asia to legalize gay marriage.
By Carol Kan