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Taipei, Feb. 10 (CNA) Justices at the Judicial Yuan, Taiwan's highest judicial organ, will convene a constitutional court March 24, in which debates will take place on the issue of same-sex marriage.
The court plans to handle two petitions for interpretations of the constitutional uncertainty of the chapter in the Civil Code that stipulates: "An agreement to marry shall be made by the male and the female parties in their own (con)cord."
The law triggered controversy after same-sex marriage registration applications were rejected by the relevant authorities based on the premise that "two persons of the same sex may not establish a legal marriage relationship."
The planned debate will focus on several disputes, including whether the recognition made based on Chapter 2, Part 4 of the Civil Code allows two persons of the same sex to establish a marriage relationship, and if the answer is no, does this violate Article 22 of the Constitution, which guarantees the freedom of marriage?
Other issues to be discussed by the Constitutional Court are: Do these provisions violate Article 7 of the Constitution, which is intended to guarantee equality for the people?
If the legislature establishes another system (such as same-sex couples) other than marriage, will the establishment of such a system comply with Article 7 and Article 22 of the Constitution, which guarantee equality and freedom of marriage, respectively?
"For the purpose of clarifying the issues of this case, the Justice of the Constitutional Court deems it necessary to proceed with oral argument and obtain opinions from the petitioners and authorities concerned," said a statement released Friday by the Department of Clerks for the Justices of the Constitutional Court.
Apart from the petitioners -- the Taipei City government and social activist Qi Jia-wei (祁家威) -- representatives of the relevant authorities, including the minister of justice, the competent authority of the Civil Code, the Ministry of the Interior and the Household Registration Office of Taipei's Wanhua District, will appear before the court, according to the statement.
Qi came out as a homosexual in 1986, becoming the first man to do so publicly in Taiwan. His first petition for a constitutional interpretation on the same-sex marriage issue was turned down 16 years ago. The petition the Constitution Court will address is his second.
The planned debates, scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. March 24, will be broadcast live on the website of the Judicial Yuan.
All 15 justices of the Constitutional Court will take part in the debates, except for Huang Rui-ming (黃瑞明), who is the husband of Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Yu Mei-nu (尢美女), a same-sex marriage advocate who proposed revising the Civil Code to legalize such marriages.
A draft bill passed its initial screening at the legislative Judiciary and Organic Laws and Statutes Committee in late December last year, when Yu served as chairwoman of the committee.
Instead of changing Article 972, which states that "an agreement to marry shall be made by the male and the female parties themselves," the proposed amendment to the Civil Code adds another paragraph stating that "an agreement to marry between people of the same sex shall be made by the two parties involved."
If Taiwan eventually legalizes same-sex marriage, it is likely to be the first country in Asia to do so.
The nod at the Legislature, however, has drawn vicious protests from opposing civil groups which have vowed to seek to put the issue to a national referendum.
(By Wang Yang-yu and Elizabeth Hsu)