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Implications of referendums on gay marriage debated

2018/11/25 18:31

CNA file photo

Taipei, Nov. 25 (CNA) The results of Saturday's referendums on equal marriage rights for the gay community has been interpreted by some as a resounding rejection of same-sex marriage by Taiwanese society, but gay rights activists say the campaign was heavily skewed in favor of the anti-gay rights camp.

"It is an indication that the position of Taiwan society is that same-sex marriage is unacceptable," Chen Ko (陳科), secretary-general of Chinese Regional Bishops' Conference told CNA Sunday.

Of the five questions regarding same sex issues, three reached the required threshold of more than 4.94 million "yes" votes, a quarter of eligible voters.

One of the questions asked if people agree that marriage should be restricted to being between a man and a woman as described under the Civil Code. A total of 7.66 million people agreed, 2.91 million disagreed.

Another question asked if the rights of same-sex couples should be provided for in ways other than those stated in the marriage regulations in the Civil Code.

The third question asked if people agree that homosexual education should not be taught to students in elementary and junior high schools as currently stipulated under the enforcement rules of the Gender Equity Education Act.

"People used their ballots to make their voice heard. Family values and inclusion of those values in the education of the next generation are mainstream public opinion that the government should heed," Tseng Hsien-ying (曾獻瑩), one of the initiators of the proposals, said.

Activists supporting marriage equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and queer (LGBTIQ) people were forced to submit the other two referendum proposals -- in order to counter the anti-gay marriage camp -- but both failed to pass the required threshold.

One question asked if people agree that the marriage regulations in the Civil Code should be used to guarantee the rights of same-sex couples to get married. A total of 6.95 million people voted no and 3.38 million yes.

The other proposal asked if people agree that the Gender Equity Education Act should stipulate that gender equality education covering courses on inclusive sexuality education be included in the nation's 12-year basic education curriculum.

Chen said the referendum results were a surprise.

Based on the way society has reacted to annual gay pride parades, acceptance of gay people did not seem to be a problem in Taiwan, but the referendum result, in which nearly 70 percent of people opposed revision of the Civil Code to include same sex marriage, suggests society is not ready for such a change, Chen said.

"Taiwanese people tend to be more conservative when it comes to marriage, finding it hard to accept changes made to the definition of marriage," Chen said.

Taiwan Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership Rights, a LGBTIQ rights group which supported the latter two referendum proposals, issued a statement Saturday reminding the government of its obligation to put the 2017 constitutional ruling in favor of same sex marriage into practice despite the referendum results.

On May 24, 2017, Taiwan's Constitutional Court said the definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman in the Civil Code is unconstitutional and ordered that the law be amended or another law introduced legalizing same sex marriage within two years.

During the campaign, the anti-gay rights camp poured hundreds of millions of dollars into advertisements to brainwash society with propaganda to incite fear, hatred, prejudice and bias against gay people, they said in the statement.

Although the two proposals received more "no" than "yes" votes, "we will not give up our fight and we believe that justice will come to society," they said.

The reason the Constitutional Court accepted a request to interpret the definition of marriage under the Civil Code and handed down the landmark ruling was to protect gay people against the sort of discrimination they endured during the campaign because they are a minority in society, the statement said.

Given the constitutional ruling, the referendum proposals put forward by anti-gay rights groups should not have been approved in the first place, it said.

"We would like to remind the government that the referendum results do not alter the fact that the constitutional ruling must be acted on before May 24, 2019," they said.

(By Shih Hsiu-chuan, Yu Hsiao-han and Wu Hsin-yun)Enditem/AW