Imperfect Democracy: The Way for Marriage Equality in Taiwan
To many LGBT rights supporters who have been fighting for marriage equality, Taiwan’s May 2017 Constitutional Court decision to recognize same-sex unions as a fundamental right was a victory decades in the making. The ruling gave Taiwanese authorities two years to amend marriage laws or pass new legislation to recognize this new reality. While the question of how this legislative change should look remains unsettled, opponents of same-sex marriage submitted plebiscite proposals and took the issue to the Taiwan High Court to overturn the Constitutional Court’s ruling. With political pressure building as the landmark decision reaches its one-year mark, what might the future bring for same-sex couples in Taiwan? Rather than leaving it up to a patchwork of referendums that would compromise legislation, Taiwan should simply amend the Civil Code to best serve the rights of same-sex couples.
Despite the May 2017 ruling, the same-sex marriage debate continues to divide Taiwanese society. A coalition of conservative and pro-status quo groups recently submitted referendum proposals to the Central Election Commission (CEC), the agency responsible for managing elections. Their proposals ask the Taiwanese public if they agree that marriage should be defined as union between a man and a woman and if they support protecting the rights of same-sex couples through alternative unions, instead of marriages. A “yes” vote on either of these would expressly contradict the decision of the Constitutional Court. Their argument is that the public, as opposed to the court, should be the final arbiter of this important issue.