Household office ordered to allow contested international same-sex marriage

05/07/2021 03:06 PM
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Ting Tse-yan (center right) and his partner Guzifer Leong (center left) are pictured outside the court building after the ruling. CNA photo May 6, 2021
Ting Tse-yan (center right) and his partner Guzifer Leong (center left) are pictured outside the court building after the ruling. CNA photo May 6, 2021

Taipei, May 6 (CNA) The Taipei High Administrative Court on Thursday issued a narrow ruling ordering a household registration office to permit a same-sex marriage involving a foreign national from a jurisdiction in which such marriages are illegal.

In the case in question, Taipei's Zhongzheng District Household Registration Office refused to permit the marriage of Taiwanese national Ting Tse-yan (丁則言) and his partner Guzifer Leong (梁展輝), who is from Macau, when they attempted to do so on Oct. 1, 2019.

The office based its decision on Article 46 of the Act Governing the Choice of Law in Civil Matters Involving Foreign Elements, which states that "the formation of a marriage is governed by the national laws of each party."

In practice, this means that same-sex couples involving a partner from a country or jurisdiction in which gay marriage is illegal -- such as Macau -- are not allowed to marry in Taiwan or have a marriage conducted in a third country legally recognized.

In its ruling, the administrative court cited Article 6 of the same Act, which states that in specific situations where Taiwanese courts must consider the civil laws of foreign jurisdictions, the foreign law should be applied -- unless that country's laws specifically state that Taiwanese law should be applied.

Under Macau's Civil Code, the court went on to note, legal jurisdiction for civil matters is based on a person's place of "habitual residence."

Therefore, it reasoned, since Leong is a resident of Taiwan, Taiwan's laws allowing same-sex marriage should take precedent.

On those grounds, the court revoked the household office's decision to deny the couple's marriage and ordered it to validate the registration they submitted in 2019.

At a press conference Thursday, Leong thanked the court for its ruling, while noting that many other international same-sex couples in Taiwan find themselves in the same situation.

Leong, who came to Taiwan in 2017 and currently runs a small bakery with his partner, said he has long come to regard Taiwan as his home.

Meanwhile, as of midday Friday, it was unclear whether the Zhongzheng office would seek to appeal the decision, and the couple had yet to visit the office to have their marriage registered.

Chiu Shih-jung (邱士榮), director of Taipei's neighboring Da'an Household Registration Office, told CNA Thursday that the ruling likely "wasn't final" and in any case, applied only to the individual couple.

The bigger issue, however, is that Taiwan's current laws on how to treat international same-sex marriages lack uniformity, Chiu said.

"Civil servants hope that legal amendments correcting this situation will quickly be passed, so that they have a clear legal process to follow," he said.

Chiu was referring to the Judicial Yuan's approval in January of draft legal amendments that would recognize nearly all international same-sex marriages in the country.

The amendments, which would revise Article 46 to allow and recognize all same-sex marriages as long as one of the partners is a Republic of China (Taiwan) national, are currently awaiting approval from the Cabinet, and would then need to be passed by the Legislature.

The Judicial Yuan is the judicial branch that oversees Taiwan's court system and runs the Constitutional Court.

(By Liu Shih-yi and Matthew Mazzetta)

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