CEC passes review of same-sex marriage referendum proposals - Focus Taiwan

CEC passes review of same-sex marriage referendum proposals

Gay rights activist Chi Chia-wei (祁家威, wearing red jacket)
Gay rights activist Chi Chia-wei (祁家威, wearing red jacket)

Taipei, April 18 (CNA) Taiwan's Central Election Commission (CEC) on Tuesday passed a review of two national referendum proposals related to same-sex marriage and one related to same-sex education, sparking a protest from gay rights groups.

The two questions related to same-sex marriage are: "Do you agree with using means other than the marriage regulations in the Civil Code to protect the rights of two people of the same gender to build a permanent life together?" and "Do you agree that the marriage regulations in the Civil Code should define marriage as between a man and a woman?"

The one related to same-sex education is: "Do you agree that during the elementary and junior high school stage, the Ministry of Education and schools at all levels should not implement same-sex education as stipulated in the Gender Equity Education Act's implementation rules?"

The CEC said Tuesday that the three proposals comply with regulations, and it will request household registration offices to complete a check of the list of endorsers according to household registration data within 15 days.

The referendum's organizers said they got over 3,100 signatures endorsing the questions, and at least 1,879 have to be verified as valid for the process to continue.

If the threshold is met,the second stage of the referendum drive can begin.

During the second stage, if any of the proposals collects 281,745 signatures, or 1.5 percent of the total number of eligible voters in the most recent presidential election, a national referendum will be held on the proposed question.

The referendum proposals were initiated by the anti-gay marriage group, the Happiness of the Next Generation Alliance, which opposes revising Taiwan's Civil Code to allow same-sex marriage but supports crafting a separate special law to protect the rights of same-sex couples to "build a permanent life together."

The group initiated the three referendum proposals in January after revisions to the Referendum Act took effect.

The amendments lowered the thresholds for a referendum motion to be initiated and accepted, and for its result to be declared valid.

In a statement released Tuesday, the alliance praised the CEC for returning the "right to choose" back to the people.

The alliance argued that the two same-sex marriage referendum proposals do not violate the Constitution, and said the same-sex education proposal is aimed at protecting children's physical and mental health.

Gay marriage rights groups, however, expressed anger and disappointment over the CEC's decision to pass the review of the proposals, arguing that they violate the Constitution and infringe on human rights.

The Marriage Equality Platform urged the government and lawmakers to quickly amend and enact laws in accordance with the ruling of the Constitutional Court in May last year that paved the way for the legalization of same-sex marriage in Taiwan.

In its Interpretation No. 748 on May 24, 2017, the Constitutional Court ruled that the prohibition of same-sex marriage in the Civil Code violates the Constitution, and it gave the Legislature two years to amend existing laws or pass new ones to protect the marriage rights of gay couples.

Gay rights activist Chi Chia-wei (祁家威) argued that human rights issues in general should not be put to a vote in referendums, and he urged gay marriage supporters to keep up their fight.

Victoria Hsu (許秀雯), head of the Taiwan Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership Rights, said the mobilization power of anti-gay marriage groups should not be underestimated, and predicted that the proposals are likely to get enough signatures to pass the second-stage threshold.

Hsu urged supporters of gay marriage to make their voices heard. "If they are going to put this to a referendum, we have got to win," she said.

(By Christie Chen)


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