Same-sex marriage dealt setback in Taiwan

Supporters of LGBT rights rallied in Taipei on October 27, urging voters to vote no on referenda 10,11 and 12 and yes on 14 and 15. (CNA photo)

The prospects for same-sex marriage in Taiwan look to have been dealt a setback in a series of referenda held alongside local elections on Saturday.

Five referenda on the ballot concerned the issues of same-sex marriage and the teaching of gender and LGBT issues in schools. Three had been proposed by groups opposed to same-sex marriage, while two had been proposed by groups in favor.

While the results have not been finalized, data posted by the Central Election Commission showed a consistent pattern of same-sex marriage proponents being outvoted by opponents by two to one in all five referenda.

This means referenda on defining marriage as between one man and one woman and on creating legislation for same-sex couples that is separate from marriage under the Civil Code are likely to pass. While the separate legislation could lead to something akin to domestic partnerships, it was opposed by LGBT groups, who are seeking the full rights of marriage.

Another measure expected to pass is a referendum opposing the implementation of the Enforcement Rules for Gender Equity Education Act in elementary and middle schools.

Conversely, the referenda posed by the side supporting same-sex marriage – that same-sex unions should be covered under the Civil Code’s marriage provisions and that students should be taught the importance of gender equality, emotional education, sex education, and same-sex education – look set to fail.

The prospect of Taiwan becoming the first country in Asia to enact same-sex marriage appeared a reality when the country’s constitutional court ruled last year that it was unconstitutional to deny same-sex couples the right to marry, giving a two-year grace period for legislation to be enacted to this effect. In the months leading up to Saturday’s vote, President Tsai Ing-wen’s administration had already come under fire from LGBT activists for failing to follow up on the court’s verdict by drafting such legislation.

The results of Saturday’s referenda are likely to sow further turmoil as the court’s two-year deadline in May 2019 approaches.