Taiwan closer to same-sex marriage

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Shanghai Daily, December 18, 2015
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With Taiwan's leadership elections in January expected to usher in a new political era, many people are hoping it will also see the island legalize same-sex marriage.

Taiwan — the host of Asia's biggest gay pride parade — is already one of the region's most forward-thinking societies when it comes to gay rights, and this year three of its biggest cities began allowing gay couples to register as one household.

But a move toward marriage equality has remained stagnant in its legislature for over two years and some activists say they need to look beyond the island's two dominant political parties if they are to achieve their goal.

Staunch resistance from the ruling Kuomintang has meant a same-sex marriage bill has stalled since proposed in 2013 by a legislator for the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party.

"Looking at the global trend for marriage equality, the momentum has never been as good as this in recent years," said Yu Mei-nu, a DPP lawmaker and proponent of the bill.

"If the DPP has the majority of seats, then there are greater chances for the bill to be listed into the agenda," she said.

The bill passed a first reading in 2013 but failed to garner enough support from lawmakers to push it further. A new bill will have to be introduced in the next parliament.

DPP leadership candidate Tsai Ing-wen, who could become Taiwan's first female leader if elected, openly expressed her support for same-sex marriage in a video on her Facebook page in October, saying: "Everyone is equal before love."

Tsai has faced questions over her sexual orientation but refuses to respond, saying it would make her "an accomplice of sexual suppression."

Some activists are concerned that the DPP may temper their support for gay marriage because it risks alienating its more conservative supporters.

To push their case, they are fielding their own candidates in the legislative elections — which take place at the same time as the leadership vote.

Of the 16 candidates put forward by the Green Party-Social Democratic Party Alliance, a new coalition, five are openly gay and have made gay rights the center of their platform.

Opposition to same-sex marriage mostly comes from Christian groups, who wield significant influence in the KMT.

But 59 percent of the general public support it, according to an online survey this year.

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