Rights group urges Taiwan to allow cross-national same-sex marriage

Sea You Soon (CNA file photo)

TAIPEI (CNA) — The Taiwan Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership Rights (TAPCPR) and several same-sex couples on Sunday urged Taiwan’s government to allow same-sex marriages between couples from different countries.

Taiwan’s government legalized same-sex marriage in May 2019, becoming the first Asian country to do so.

According to the Act Governing the Choice of Law in Civil Matters Involving Foreign Elements, however, a cross-national same-sex marriage can only be recognized in Taiwan if the countries of which the two partners are citizens both recognize same-sex marriage.

The restriction discriminates against the LGBT community in Taiwan as marriage is a constitutional right, Pan Tien-ching (潘天慶), a lawyer from the TAPCPR, said at a press conference held near Taiwan’s Presidential Office Building.

Several cross-national same-sex couples lamented their difficult situations at the press conference.

“For many cross-national same-sex couples, including me and my wife, our efforts to be with our loved ones are symbolized by our old plane ticket stubs,” said Kaili Lai, a Taiwanese LGBT married to a Malaysian Tan Bee Guat.

According to Lai, she and Tan held a simple wedding in Malaysia in 2016 with the blessings of their parents.

Tan Bee Guat (right) and Kaili Lai.

Tan was not allowed to live in Taiwan, however because she was not a Taiwanese citizen and could not get a residence certificate because her marriage to Lai was not recognized.

They had to fly frequently between Taiwan and Malaysia to see each other, leaving Tan little choice but to enroll in a university in Taiwan as a freshmen at the age of 35 to be able to stay in Taiwan on a student visa.

But Tan is graduating next month and will have to enroll in a graduate school program to continue staying in Taiwan.

Another cross-national same-sex couple, Joyce from Taiwan and Queenie from the Philippines, are facing the same predicament — Queenie has to enroll in National Taiwan Normal University for the same purpose.

CNA file photo

According to the TAPCPR, the signature campaign it launched on May 9 to petition the government to amend laws that restrict same-sex marriage between such couples received 13,500 signatures and support from 20 human rights watchdogs in Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, Nepal, Indonesia and the United States.

The TAPCPR said it had written to relevant government units such as the Ministry of Justice, Mainland Affairs Council, National Immigration Agencies and the Ministry of Interiors on the issue.

“Most government agencies have agreed that the issues need to be addressed but admitted that more coordination between relevant agencies is needed,” the TAPCPR said as it urged President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) to resolve the issue.

CNA file photo