Taiwan Moves Closer to Marriage Equality

by Jason St. Amand

National News Editor

Friday January 4, 2013

Taiwan is inching closer to allowing same-sex couples to marry. Lawmakers on the East Asian island have held their first legislative hearing on marriage equality.

Gay Star News reports that the proposed bill would change the country's Civil Code and alter the words from "male" and "female" on marriage contracts to gender-neutral language. Judge Hsu Li-ying from the Judicial Yuan's Juvenile and Family Department believes the measure "may need to be more comprehensive" before moving forward.

During the first legislative hearing on gay marriage, politicians, lawyers and gay rights activists attended. Deputy Justice Minister Chen Ming-tang said then that laws for parentage, taxes and health insurance would also have to be altered in addition to the Civil Code. Chen Wei-lien, director of the Ministry of Justice's Department of Legal Affairs, said officials would need a scholar who specialized in the Civil Code to examine Taiwan's citizens' attitudes towards same-sex marriage.

According to a September poll by United Daily News, 55 percent of Taiwanese surveyed supported marriage equality laws while just 37 percent were opposed. Gay Star further analyzed the poll and found that 61 percent of parents could not accept an adult child coming out as gay; 37 percent said that they could.

Taiwan, an island between mainland China and the Philippines, was founded by Chinese Nationalists fleeing the Red Guard of Mae Tse Tung. It has developed into one of the most progressive and prosperous countries in Asia.

In 2003, it became the first country in Asia (considering Australia is a separate continent) to attempt to legalize gay marriage. The country's Pride parade annually draws about 65,000 people, which makes it the largest sanctioned LGBT event in East Asia.

"The theme of this year's Pride, not surprisingly, is equality in marriage. "Gay people are also tax-paying citizens and we demand the same basic right as any heterosexual couples," Mu Chuan, one of the organizers of the Pride event said at the time. LGBT rights groups launched a campaign during the march with the goal of collecting one million signatures for a petition to legalize gay marriage and with plans to submit it to the government this year.

The country has made noticeable strides on LGBT issues on several fronts. In 2003, discrimination based on sexual orientation in education was banned thanks to the country's Gender Equality Education Act. In 2007, the government passed a similar legislation that prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation at work.