Taiwan MPs urged to back government in Asia's first same-sex marriage law

Monday, 13 May 2019 09:38 GMT

Same-sex marriage supporters take part in a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) pride parade after losing in the marriage equality referendum, in Kaohsiung, Taiwan November 25, 2018. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

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Taiwan has until May 24 to legalise same-sex marriage after a 2017 ruling by the island's top court

By Beh Lih Yi

KUALA LUMPUR, May 13 (Openly) - Taiwan's lawmakers must back the government's draft same-sex law and make the self-ruled island the first place in Asia to allow such unions, LGBT+ campaigners said on Monday, ahead of a key vote in parliament this week.

Taiwan has until May 24 to legalise same-sex marriage after a 2017 ruling by the island's top court. The court did not give specific guidance on how laws regulating such unions should be drawn up.

Parliament will vote on Friday on same-sex marriage but there are three bills that have been proposed - one by the government and two by lawmakers which LGBT+ groups have described as discriminatory.

"We won't accept any more compromise because the (government's) bill is already our bottom line," said Jennifer Lu, the chief coordinator of Marriage Equality Coalition Taiwan, an alliance of groups that support gay rights.

"If one of the two other bills is passed, we will launch another constitutional court challenge," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Despite some limitations on adoption and foreign spouses, Lu said the government's draft law would give same-sex couples similar legal protections for marriage as heterosexuals.

The coalition is urging supporters to gather outside the parliament on Tuesday and Friday ahead of the vote.

Legalisation of same-sex marriage in Taiwan has become complex after voters opposed marriage equality in a series of referendums last November, dealing a blow to the island's reputation as a beacon of liberalism in Asia.

More than two-thirds of those who voted in the referendum wanted to retain the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman under the civil law.

The government's bill proposed same-sex marriage to be legalised under a separate law - a move it said respected both the court ruling and the referendum results.

The two other bills - proposed by a ruling and an opposition legislator respectively - offer less protections, does not recognise a gay partner as a spouse, or give relatives the right to ask for an annulment of the marriage.

"A child will not be protected if their parents are not seen as spouses under the law," said Reese Li, a spokeswoman from the lobby group LGBT Family Rights Advocacy, which assists same-sex families with children.

"We will only support the government's bill," added Li, who estimates there are at least 300 same-sex families in Taiwan.

The same-sex marriage issue has been a challenge for President Tsai Ing-wen, who campaigned on a promise for marriage equality in the run up to 2016 polls.

Conservative groups that have opposed same-sex marriage have accused the government of ignoring the referendum results and said the government's draft law was unacceptable.

(Reporting by Beh Lih Yi @behlihyi; Editing by Michael Taylor. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)

Openly is an initiative of the Thomson Reuters Foundation dedicated to impartial coverage of LGBT+ issues from around the world.

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