Legalization of same-sex marriage a proud moment: culture minister

05/24/2019 08:50 PM
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New York, May 23 (CNA) Taiwan's new law that legalizes same-sex marriage took effect Friday, a milestone described as a proud moment for the nation by Culture Minister Cheng Li-chiun (鄭麗君), a longtime advocate for marriage equality.

The bill governing same-sex marriage, called the Enforcement Act of Judicial Yuan Interpretation No. 748, has drawn considerable coverage in foreign media since it was passed on May 17.

Among those reporting on it has been the Washington Post, and Cheng, who was in the United States this past week, said she felt proud of Taiwan after reading the Post's reports in Washington.

"The world has now not just seen Taiwan but also Taiwan's efforts in striving for human rights," she said in an interview with CNA in New York on Thursday.

Judicial Yuan Interpretation No. 748 is a landmark in Taiwan's democratic history, and "the figure 748 will become a symbol of Taiwan's democratic achievements," Cheng said.

The legislation realized democratic values and has become a model for other countries in Asia, said the minister who served as a lawmaker from 2012 to 2016, during which she proposed an amendment to the Civil Code to allow same-sex marriage.

During her stay in Washington D.C., Cheng visited several museums, including the Holocaust Memorial Museum, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and the National Museum of the American Indian, that featured human rights and equality.

Cheng said during the visits she found that discrimination could result from many circumstances.

But she discovered that the foundation of social justice comes from the motto "I fight for rights not for myself but for you," citing the civil rights movement in the U.S. in the 1950s that brought people of different colors together in the fight for civil rights.

"I don't have to be there to know I should put myself in someone else's shoes, helping fight for the rights for other people. It is the only way to make social justice possible," she said.

Taiwan's soft power

During the interview, Cheng spoke of her five-day visit to Washington D.C. and New York aimed at promoting cooperation in the areas of museum management, culture, and media communication.

She said her ministry will hold a museum forum in the second half of the year, during which it will release Taiwan's first national and comprehensive "museum policy white paper."

Also in September, Taiwan's National Human Rights Museum will become an Asia-Pacific branch of the ICOM-Federation of International Human Rights Museums.

One of the goals of her U.S. visit was to push for cooperation on museum management with the U.S., Cheng said.

Recalling her visit to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the 49-year-old minister said the curator's interest in the development of democracy and human rights in Taiwan led her to think that Taiwan can export its experience in promoting democracy and fighting for human rights.

"If Taiwan was able to bring its culture and economy to the world, so too can it bring it the values of freedom and democracy," Cheng said.

To ethnic Chinese societies in the Asia-Pacific region, "we are a relatively positive force," and Taiwan should try to consolidate the values of freedom and democracy in Chinese societies around the world and the Asia-Pacific region, she said.

While Cheng talked of her hope that Taiwan can spread freedom and democracy in the world, she also warned of China's growing influence in the field.

China, she said, is exporting its "sharp power" and interfering in and penetrating democratic systems, and it has also actively invested in culture and lured talent from Taiwan.

"If we are excessively dependent on China, its screening system could become a hidden rule that leads us to limit ourselves during the process of creation."

(By Ozzy Yin and Elizabeth Hsu)


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