Anticipating Taiwan's same-sex marriage ruling

Anticipating Taiwan's same-sex marriage ruling


Taiwan same-sex couple Daphne Chiang (right) and Kenny Jhuang are getting married at the end of the year - even if the government won't legalise their union.

. New Taipei City, Taiwan. Reuters/Tyrone Siu
Artis Wang Yi (right), 32, said: "You think we want to go through all of this hardship? We have difficult relationships with our parents. We had very complicated feelings about this. If it was possible, I would rather I was not gay. But I felt the discussion of same-sex marriage is what a free country should do under the rule of law. Everyone can go against us, but we can go against them too. The discussion is fair. Taiwan is a democratic country."

Self-ruled Taiwan's constitutional court will rule on Wednesday whether same-sex couples can tie the knot under existing law, in a decision the island's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups widely expect to be favourable.

Such an outcome would be a first in Asia, where socially conservative attitudes mostly hold sway, but regardless of the decision, Daphne and Kenny plan their wedding banquet in December, with more than 100 guests attending.

. Taipei, Taiwan. Reuters/Tyrone Siu
Gay rights activist Chi Chia-wei, 59, said: "If Taiwan refuses to improve, we will continue our efforts and make a rainbow country. Even a revolution."

"You still have to live your life," said Daphne, vowing not to let an unfavourable ruling derail the plan. "Marriage is about whether the people around you, your friends around you, know, or not."

But even a favourable decision by the court, or Judicial Yuan, as it is known, could take a year or two to translate into laws allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry, experts say.

. Taipei, Taiwan. Reuters/Tyrone Siu
Lin Chi-xuan (right), 28, said: "We are the same as heterosexuals. Discrimination has taken many forms, from the skin colour of the black slaves in the past, to sexual orientation at the moment, but all of us are human beings. We all fight for fair treatment."

This is because the court is expected to give lawmakers time to frame relevant measures, said one lawyer who frequently appears before it.

"It makes sense that they would give a grace period to allow legislation to be passed," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity, due to the sensitivity of the matter.

. Taoyuan, Taiwan. Reuters/Tyrone Siu
Hare Lin (left), 42, a publisher, and Cho Chia-lin, 47, a writer. "When I first held the gay parade in 2003, there were only around a thousand people, but a few years later, the march is attended by 50 to 60 thousand," Lin said. "Also there are artists, politicians, council members, and even a presidential candidate. I believe this world can be changed. I believe Taiwan can be changed."

Democratic Taiwan is famed for an annual gay pride parade that showcases the vibrancy of its lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

The community has high expectations its years-long effort to legalise same-sex marriage will win the court's backing, because of support for gay rights by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) that swept national elections last year.

. Taipei, Taiwan. Reuters/Tyrone Siu

"If it passes (Wednesday), we will be the first in line Thursday morning," said Chin Tsai (right), who wants legal recognition of a four-year-long relationship so he can join his partner in the United States.

His partner, a ship captain, will move to New York for his job, but Tsai cannot follow as a spouse, unless Taiwan deems their union legal.

. New Taipei City, Taiwan. Reuters/Tyrone Siu
Solo Lee (right), 32, said: In my view, love is simply a goodness, it makes people happy. We are the same as heterosexuals in love: we only love one person."

If the court decides current law does not permit same-sex marriage, it is expected to rule whether such denial violates Taiwan citizens' freedom to marry and constitutional rights.

"Resolving differences is a start - more dialogue and understanding are needed," President Tsai Ing-wen, whose cabinet includes the island's first transgender minister, said on social network Twitter after a February meeting with representatives of both sides of the same-sex marriage issue.

. Taoyuan, Taiwan. Reuters/Tyrone Siu
Hu Sheng Xiang (left), 31, and Pan Shi Xin, 46, both LGBT rights activists. "I support same-sex marriage, but I think it's expanded too much and taken most of the resources. The LGBT movement is not just about same-sex marriage, there are lots of other issues concerning sexual minorities, such as supporting the partners and communities of LGBT members who have mental illness. The government and the current LGBT movement don't even touch upon this. Sexual minority communities don't just need marriage, they need more than that," Sheng Xiang said.

The court held a public hearing in March, after years of refusal to take up the issue, prompted by petitions from a gay rights activist and a city government facing growing requests for same-sex marriages.

"I think they have their own answers in their hearts," said Victoria Hsu, the lawyer for one petitioner, referring to the judges.

"It cannot be that you make your decision the day you have the public hearing. They probably wanted to clarify some points in their minds."

. Yilan, Taiwan. Reuters/Tyrone Siu
Leber Li (right), 35, a restaurant owner, drives with Amely Chen, 35, and their son Mork. "It was our dream to have children. We have a child through artificial insemination, but only one of us can be registered to be the mother, while the other without a blood connection has no way to exercise the legal duty of being a parent. This is so unfair. The baby has the love of two mothers. It does not matter how a family is formed as long as there is love. The baby can face anything in the world if the love between us is strong," said Chen.

Legal experts say the 15 judges on the court form the most liberal such group ever, with seven appointed by Tsai after becoming president. One of the 15 has recused himself from the case, as he is married to a lawmaker who backs gay rights.

Five months after Kenny went on her knees to propose to Daphne at a rally of thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender couples on Taipei's largest boulevard, the women, both in their early 30s, were trying on wedding outfits.

They were considering a white suit for Kenny, to match a dreamy white wedding dress Daphne favoured. But work will keep them from joining a rally timed to coincide with Wednesday's decision.

"Once it passes we'll have everything, further protection," said Daphne. "But before that, we have to make the most of what we have."

. Taoyuan, Taiwan. Reuters/Tyrone Siu
Huang Zi-ning (left), 19, a student and Kang Xin-fang, 19, a part-time student. "Anti same-sex marriage groups say they go against us because they want to protect the next generation. But I am the next generation. Why do they listen to those who are about to die instead of our voices? We need to speak out," said Zi-ning.