Gay rights activist reflects on one year of marriage equality bill

Chi Chia-wei

TAIPEI (CNA) — One year after Taiwan’s same-sex marriage bill went into effect, it is clear that the law has not caused any harm in society, pioneering gay rights activist Chi Chia-wei (祁家威) said on Sunday.

On May 17 last year, the Legislative Yuan passed a bill legalizing gay marriage, which went into effect a week later, making Taiwan the first country in Asia to recognize same-sex marriage.

Since then, over 4,000 LGBTQ couples have tied the knot in Taiwan.

Reflecting on how the bill has affected society over the past year, Chi said in an interview with CNA that it’s clear it has not caused any harm or ruined the sanctity of the institution of marriage, as some opponents said it would.

“LGBTQ people aren’t saints,” Chi said, so, just like heterosexual couples, their relationships will also involve people who cheat on or scam their spouses.

But since society has not disavowed heterosexual marriages because of this, it is entirely unreasonable to use this as an argument against same-sex marriage, Chi said.

Chi Chia-wei (left) waves a rainbow flag during last year’s pride parade in Taipei. / CNA photo Oct. 26, 2019

As shown in the phrase “marriage equality,” what LGBTQ people want is not a privilege, but simply not to be discriminated against based on their sexuality, Chi said.

Although there are still opponents of same-sex marriage in Taiwan, Chi said, he is confident that these forces will dwindle in the coming years.

In France, Chi said, 300,000 people marched in protest against the country’s passage of a same-sex marriage bill in 2013. The following year, the number of protesters halved, and then halved again in 2015. The protests have died down almost entirely in the past five years, he noted.

“When people see that their neighbors are LGBTQ families, they will realize that their lives are not particularly affected by marriage equality,” Chi said.

Now, more than 30 years after Chi began advocating same-sex marriage in his 20s, he has shifted his focus toward advocating cross-national gay marriages, which are still restricted in Taiwan.

A law in Taiwan titled the “Act Governing the Choice of Law in Civil Matters Involving Foreign Elements” prevents same-sex couples from getting married in Taiwan if one or both of them are from a country that does not legally recognize such marriages.

Under that act, LGBTQ people from all but 28 countries in the world are excluded from getting married in Taiwan.

CNA file photo

Chi is also advocating the expansion of adoption rights for LGBTQ couples, who are only allowed to adopt the biological children of their partner, and not non-biological ones previously adopted by one or the other of the spouses.

Besides the expansion of legal rights, Chi said he hopes that in the future, society can become even friendlier toward people in the LGBTQ community.

Asked if he had anything he wanted to say to LGBTQ people, Chi said, laughing, that it is now “up to them to do their best.”

“With same-sex marriage legalized, the remaining aspects in a relationship can only be maintained by the people themselves,” he pointed out.