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Cabinet OKs bill to legalize same-sex marriage (update)

2019/02/21 18:14:34

CNA file photo

Taipei, Feb. 21 (CNA) The Cabinet approved Thursday a draft bill that will serve as the basis for same-sex couples aged 18 and older to marry, which will be submitted to the Legislative Yuan before March 1 for review.

The draft bill covers areas such as inheritance rights, medical rights, adoption of children and monogamy.

The bill was drafted in line with a Constitutional Court ruling issued May 24, 2017, which states that the prohibition of same-sex marriage is unconstitutional and that the relevant authorities must amend or enact laws in accordance with the court's interpretation within two years.

Following the results of a Nov. 24, 2018 referendum that opposed any amendments to the Civil Code to allow legalization of gay unions, the Cabinet decided not to amend the Civil Code but rather to create a special separate draft bill to legalize same-sex marriage.

The draft legislation includes 27 articles that define same-sex marriage as a permanent union of an intimate and exclusive nature between two individuals of the same sex for the committed purpose of managing a life together.

CNA file photo

Gay couples aged 18 and older can register their marriage or divorce at any household registration office, presenting a written agreement between them that has been signed by two adult witnesses, according to the draft bill.

For people under the age of 20, the permission of their legal guardian will also have to be obtained, the bill states.

The draft legislation also prescribes that the rights and duties granted to married couples, as stipulated in the Civil Code, will also apply to married same-sex couples.

In addition, gay couples will be allowed to adopt the biological children of their partner, the bill states.

The law is expected to take effect May 24 but needs to pass the Legislature, in which the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) commands a majority.

Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) on Thursday called on the Legislature to pass the legislation as soon as possible.

"Whether you are heterosexual or gay, we are in the same country," he said, expressing the hope that people on both sides of the issue will respect each other and help make Taiwan a gay-friendly country.

While the draft bill is expected to spark some controversy, he said, it represents a move toward marriage equality in Taiwan.

"Progress is made step by step, Su said. "It is impossible to achieve everything all at once."

The draft bill reflects a compromise between supporters and opponents of gay marriage.

Ardent supporters had hoped to amend the Civil Code to legalize same-sex marriage, arguing that a separate law would be inherently discriminatory, while the most fervent opponents were against any attempts to legalize same-sex marriage, whether by amending the Civil Code or drafting a separate bill.

High-level political sources said the draft bill takes into consideration the views of people on both sides of the issue.

For example, the sources said, the Civil Code's definition of marriage as between a man and a woman has not been changed, and the draft bill has been given a neutral sounding name -- "The Enforcement Act of Judicial Yuan Interpretation No. 748" -- instead of "Same-Sex Marriage Law."

Furthermore, the draft bill refers to married same-sex couples as "both parties" instead of "spouses," and allows married gay couples to adopt the biological children of their partner, but not non-biological children as is permitted for heterosexual couples, the sources said.

Finally, an article was included in the draft bill to protect religious freedom, stating that the provisions in the law should not infringe on personal religious beliefs, according to the sources.

(By Ku Chuan and Evelyn Kao)
Enditem/J/pc

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