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Gay marriage won't be legal in Taiwan 'for now': official (update)

2015/06/27 13:09:56

CNA file photo

Taipei, June 27 (CNA) The issue of legalizing gay marriage is "extremely controversial" in Taiwan, a senior Ministry of Justice official said Saturday, adding that the government would not consider making same-sex marriages legal for the time being.

Deputy Minister of Justice Chen Ming-tang made the comment to reporters after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Friday that the U.S. Constitution provides same-sex couples the right to marry.

In Taiwan, there have been repeated calls for legal amendments and for the Justices of the Constitutional Court to interpret the constitution of the Republic of China (Taiwan) in such a way that would allow same-sex marriages to be legally recognized.

But Chen said: "All countries are not the same. In Taiwan, the issue of legalizing same-sex marriage remains extremely controversial."

"We must take into consideration the development of our society and public opinion," said the deputy minister. "So we would not consider it for now."

He added, however, that certain rights of same-sex couples should be protected.

According to a proposal submitted to the Executive Yuan by the Ministry of Justice, he said, government agencies should study how to offer better protection to same-sex couples under current laws, such as their rights to equal medical treatment and taxation.

The next step would be to work on new legislation on same-sex marriages, Chen said.

He added that while the Ministry of Justice opposes measures that would legalize same-sex marriages outright, it would support a more gradual approach.

The fact that gay marriages will become legal throughout the United States comes as a shot in the arm for activists and gay rights supporters in Taiwan.

Many people took to their Facebook page Saturday to express jubilation and support after learning the latest development in the United States.

Tsai Ing-wen, chairwoman of the Democratic Progressive Party and the party's presidential candidate, posted a ring in colors of the rainbow with a word in English -- equality -- also in multi-color.

However, she stopped short of siding with activists who are calling for speedy legalization.

On a campaign stop in Taichung, central Taiwan, Tsai said it took a long time and a lot of dialogue before the U.S. Supreme Court made the ruling.

There should be rational dialogue in Taiwan to narrow the differences on the issue, she said.

At the moment, there is no known request in Taiwan for an interpretation before the Justices of the Constitutional Court. A same-sex couple withdrew their request after receiving death threats in early 2013.

Faced with strong opposition -- mainly from religious groups, amendments to the Civil Code aimed at protecting the rights of gay couples have yet to clear the committee stage in Taiwan's Legislature.

An opinion poll released in December 2014 showed that 54 percent of Taiwanese people would support the legalization of same-sex marriage while 44.6 percent were not in favor.

(By Paige Tsai, Sophie Yeh and Jay Chen)