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Same-sex marriage supporter criticizes 'special law' proposal

2018/11/20 19:21:50

CNA file photo

Taipei, Nov. 20 (CNA) A supporter of same-sex marriage denounced Tuesday a referendum proposal to regulate same-sex marriage with a new law drafted specifically for that purpose as discriminatory and described excluding same-sex couples from Taiwan's Civil Code as "racism."

Pan Tien-ching (潘天慶), a member of the legal group working with the Taiwan Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership Rights, made the statement at a public forum to debate the referendum proposal attended by supporters and opponents.

The referendum, which will be held alongside local government elections on Nov. 24, asks eligible voters: "Do you agree to types of unions, other than those stated in the marriage regulations in the Civil Code, to protect the rights of same-sex couples who live together permanently?"

The referendum was proposed by Tseng Hsien-ying (曾獻瑩), president of the Coalition for the Happiness of Our Next Generation (ANGH). The group advocates maintaining the definition of marriage as it currently exists in the Civil Code. It proposed the referendum to determine whether there should be a separate law for same-sex couples.

At the forum, held by the Central Election Commission, Tseng said issues related to same-sex marriage are like "two trains racing toward each other doomed to collide." He argued that if the country revises the Civil Code to permit same-sex marriage, it will trigger huge social upheaval.

With the referendum, the ANGH hopes that the rights and interests of a minority can be protected in a way that minimizes the harm caused to society, Tseng said.

He denied that ANGH is an anti-LGBT group or believes in discrimination against same-sex couples. In fact, the group supports the legal protection of the rights and interests of same sex couples living together.

The ANGH just believes that such rights are best protected by an approach that does not involve revising the long-standing and widely-known Civil Code, he said.

Moreover, this is hardly an unusual way to protect the rights of a certain group of people, Tseng argued, citing indigenous people as an example, who he said despite being a minority group enjoy rights and interests specific to them.

Speaking against the referendum, Pan argued that "there are not two trains racing towards each other, there is one train about to run over people." The people here are LGBT groups, he noted.

While supporters of the referendum keep citing "family" and "blood relationships" as reasons to exclude same-sex marriage from the Civil Code, he said the idea is no different to racism.

Pan also said that protecting same-sex marriage with a special law is also a waste of social resources and inherently discriminatory.

For example, he said that the existing law stipulates that the remaining partner in a heterosexual marriage has the right of inheritance if his or her partner dies. However, many supporters of the referendum suggest the inheritance rights of same-sex couples should be based on the contribution of each to their shared life.

"This is discrimination," the lawyer contended.

The question raised in the referendum stems from Interpretation No. 748 of Taiwan's Constitutional Court, which ruled on May 24, 2017 that the prohibition of same-sex marriage in the Civil Code was unconstitutional.

It gave the Legislature two years to either amend existing laws or pass new ones to protect the marriage rights of gay couples.

(By Yu Hsiao-han and Elizabeth Hsu)