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Hundreds commemorate death of gay professor Jacques Picoux

2017/10/16 23:57:26

LGBT activists demand President Tsai make good on her campaign promise at a rally commemorating the death of Professor Jacques Picoux.

Taipei, Oct. 16 (CNA) LGBT rights activists on Monday urged President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) to deliver on her promise, as they staged a rally to commemorate Jacques Picoux (畢安生), a French professor whose suicide last year put the issue of legalizing same-sex marriage in the spotlight.

The activists made two demands to the Tsai government. First, they said, same-sex marriage should be legalized by amending the Civil Code which currently states marriage is between a man and a woman. The activists are opposed to introducing a separate bill to address the inequality.

Second, they demanded that the Civil Code be amended before the legislative session goes into recess, expected to be by the end of this year or early next year.

"We didn't beg you [Tsai] to promise same-sex marriage in the first place. You made the campaign pledge yourself," Awakening Foundation senior researcher Tseng Chao-yuan (曾昭媛) said as she read out a statement.

"Since the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) controls both the executive and legislative branches, be sure to walk your talk," she added.

Picoux committed suicide at the age of 67 by jumping off a building about one year after his long-time partner Tseng Ching-chao (曾敬超) died of cancer.

Due to the lack of legal rights for same-sex partners, the retired lecturer on French language and literature at National Taiwan University had no say in medical decisions for his partner in the final days of his partner's life. After his partner died, he also had no right to claim the property they had resided in. His partner reportedly stated in his will that his property should go to Picoux.

Picoux's death prompted an outcry and stepped up calls for legalization of same-sex marriage with various versions of bills being put forth by lawmakers across party lines. However, the bills, along with proposed amendments to the Civil Code, have been stalled in the Legislature.

This is largely because lawmakers remained divided over whether same-sex couples should be entitled to equal rights as heterosexual couples under the Civil Code or whether such marriages should be regulated under a separate law.

The division also exists within the DPP. The Tsai administration has yet to clarify its position on this issue.

Implementing a separate legislation to govern same-sex marriage is "unacceptable," Tseng Chao-yuan said, citing Constitutional Interpretation No. 748 handed down in May by Taiwan's grand justices which ruled that the Civil Code was unconstitutional because its definition of marriage "discriminates against same-sex marriages."

The rally held at Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Office building attracted hundreds of people. Led by the organizers, they shouted towards the Presidential Office: "No more waiting. Amend the Civil Code immediately."

Many of Picoux's friends and students shared their personal memories of him and expressed their worries that what had happened to Picoux could happen to them someday if the Legislature fails to pass the bills as soon as possible.

With her toddler in her arms and her wife next to her, Jovi, who has been suffering from ankylosing spondylitis, burst out crying when she said she had just received bad news that her mother was suspected of having colorectal cancer.

"If the rights for my wife to have custody of my child is not legally guaranteed, who can care for her after my mother and I both die?" Jovi said.

(By Shih Hsiu-chuan)