Taipei City to seek constitutional interpretation on gay marriage (update)

07/23/2015 09:10 PM
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(CNA file photo)
(CNA file photo)

Taipei, July 23 (CNA) The Taipei City government said Thursday that it is in the process of seeking a constitutional interpretation on whether Taiwan's Civil Code violates the Constitution by restricting marriage to heterosexual couples.

In a statement, the city's Department of Civil Affairs said it completed the documents for submission to the court July 2. The documents were approved by the city government on July 20 and will be sent to the Ministry of the Interior next week, Hong Jin-da (洪進達), a section chief at the department, told CNA.

Article 972 of the Civil Code states that "an agreement to marry shall be made by the male and the female parties in their own concord."

The city government is seeking the opinion of the Justices of the Constitutional Court on whether that article and other marriage-related articles in the Civil Code violate articles in the Constitution that pertain to freedom and equality, Hong said.

The civil affairs department said the Taipei City government respects the opinions of people on both sides of the same-sex marriage argument, but since the Constitutional Court has never issued an interpretation on the matter, the question has arisen of whether the relevant laws may be unconstitutional.

"For a long time, gays and lesbians have been pursuing their equal marriage rights, but there have always been disputes," Hong said. "The Taipei City government is seeking a constitutional interpretation to quell the disputes."

Countries around the world are now more open toward same-sex marriage, the city's civil affairs department said, citing the example of a recent U.S. Supreme Court's ruling that legalized gay marriage across the United States.

In Taiwan, a proposed amendment to the Civil Code, aimed at legalizing same-sex marriage, cleared the first reading in the Legislative Yuan in 2013. The bill was reviewed for the first time in the committee stage in the Legislative Yuan last December, but has since been stalled due largely to opposition from religious groups.

Under the proposed amendment, the terms "man and woman," "husband and wife" and "father and mother" in the Civil Code would be changed to the gender-neutral "two parties," "spouses" and "parents," respectively.

The Taipei City government is the first government body in Taiwan to seek a constitutional interpretation on same-sex marriage.

Groups for and against same-sex marriage both look favorably on the Taipei City government's move.

"It is great that the Taipei City government is making this move," said Chien Chih-chieh (簡至潔), secretary-general of the Taiwan Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership Rights.

"It shows that local governments are taking the lead in telling the central government that equal marriage right is what the people want," Chien said.

The Taipei City government's decision came just months after Taoyuan became the first city to open its mass wedding to same-sex couples, and Kaohsiung and Taipei allowed same-sex couples to register their partner in city records, she said.

"We also look favorably on this," and believe the Justices of the Constitutional Court will not make the mistake of expanding the definition of human rights without any limits, said Andrew Chang (張守一), secretary-general of the Family Guardian Coalition of Taiwan Religions (which previously called themselves other names, including the Taiwan Religious Groups Alliance for the Family 護家盟).

"We believe same-sex union does not fall under the traditional definition of marriage, that is, the couple must be able to reproduce, raise and educate the next generation," said Chang, whose coalition has adamantly opposed same-sex marriage.

(By Christie Chen) ENDITEM/pc/sc

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