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Gay marriage supporters surround Legislature with plenty at stake

2019/05/14 12:18:45

Taipei, May 14 (CNA) More than 1,000 pro-gay marriage supporters gathered outside the Legislative Yuan on Tuesday as lawmakers began efforts to reconcile three competing bills on same-sex marriage that will determine how same-sex relationships are defined in the future.

Of the three bills, only one, proposed by the Executive Yuan, defines a formal union between same-sex couples as "marriage," and it was the only bill the gay rights groups said they could accept.

"The Executive Yuan's version is already what we see as the 'compromise bill' and there must be no more compromises," Marriage Equality Coalition Taiwan chief coordinator Jennifer Lu (呂欣潔) said outside the Legislature on Tuesday morning, just minutes before lawmakers began negotiations over the bills.

Lu said "union" does not equal, nor can it be an alternative option for, "marriage," and argued that Taiwan should not adopt a "one country, two systems" model for marriage.

She was referring to the draft bill submitted by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lin Tai-hua (林岱樺), which seeks to allow gay couples to create a "same-sex union," instead of same-sex marriage as designed by the Executive Yuan's bill.

Another bill, tendered by Kuomintang (KMT) Legislator Lai Shyh-bao (賴士葆), only permits two people of the same gender to form a "same-sex familial relationship," a designation that could invite misunderstandings because a son and his father are also each other's "same-sex family member," Lu said.

Taiwan LGBT Family Rights Advocacy executive secretary Li Hsuan-ping (黎璿萍) said that what gay couples are fighting for is not privilege, but equal treatment.

"The hundreds of gay families in Taiwan are no different from the so-called ordinary families...but the current system has forced them to be single-parent families," Li said, urging lawmakers to back the Executive Yuan's version if they really care about the welfare of children and future generations.

In the area of adoption of children, only the Executive Yuan's bill allows a party to adopt the other's biological children, while the other two bills only permit forms of joint guardianship.

The existence of three competing bills reflects the divisive nature of the issue in Taiwan, and anti-gay marriage forces were also pushing their appeals Tuesday.

At a press conference held 500 meters from the Legislature, the Coalition for the Happiness of Our Next Generation urged lawmakers to refrain from forcibly passing bills legalizing same-sex marriage in disregard of mainstream public opinion, referring to national referendums on the issue held in November 2018.

The coalition said that because the results of the referendums came out after Interpretation No. 748 was issued by Taiwan's Constitutional Court on May 24, 2017, lawmakers should enact a related law based on "new legislative principles" shaped by the referendums.

In the referendums, nearly three-quarters of Taiwanese voters supported the definition of marriage in the Civil Code as being between a man and a woman, and two-thirds were against education on homosexuality in schools.

The group also dismissed the argument that homosexuality is innate, saying that psychological studies have shown that homosexual tendencies could be affected by childhood experiences and therefore "have the chance of being changed."

The conclusions reached during Tuesday's negotiations are expected to be put to a full vote of the Legislature on May 17.

If the Legislative Yuan fails to deliver a bill that legalizes the formation of same-sex relationships before May 24, gay couples may be allowed to register for marriage in accordance with the Civil Code.

May 24 is the deadline imposed by the Interpretation No. 748 for resolving the issue after it found the Civil Code's prohibition of unions between two people of the same gender to be unconstitutional.

(By Stacy Hsu)
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