Legalization of Same- Sex Marriages in Taiwan

Table of Contents

OutlineIntroduction Homosexual Discrimination Society’s Perception Religion’s PerspectiveThe Path to LegalisationReferendumEstablishing New Law Impacts of LegalisationRevolutionMoralityAsia’s StanceConsequences Taiwan FacedThe Future of AsiaLegalisation of Same- Sex Marriages in TaiwanHomosexuality was a foreign topic until 1900’s; to majority of people, eventually, due to an expanding number of individuals openly declaring their sexuality, people started to become familiar to the existence of such. Along with this rise in number, questions and controversial viewpoints regarding this subject also increased. According to, ‘Encyclopedia of Sex and Gender,’ homosexuality is simply the quality of being sexually attracted to people of the same sex. However, in order to accurately represent those who are sexually oriented in different ways, much more specific terms are used. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer are a few examples. The abbreviation LGBTQ is used as an umbrella term, referring to them as a whole (New York University). Even at present, accepting the LGBTQ Community and to give them their right to live amongst the society as one, has been quite a debate amongst most individuals and approximately 165 countries (ABC News). Although the positive attitude shown towards them by open minded people and supportive countries, the negative perspective of other persons and conservative countries, puts a strain on the LGBTQ community, as there seem to be no end to them being harassed for deviating from society’s assumed norms. Thereby, this composition will be concentrating on the LGBTQ Community of Taiwan, the first ever country in Asia to legalise same-sex marriages, particularly focusing on the problems the LGBTQ dealt with, Taiwan’s motive to legalise, result of the new law, and Asia’s point of view towards this matter. Homosexual DiscriminationPeople tend to feel the constant need to fit into society’s cultural regulations, because failing to do so would expose them to being looked down upon by the public (Beyond blue 2019). Such is a case most LGBTQ people face; unable to meet the convention of being male or female or retain the traditional ways men and women are recognized to be. This puts them under the pressure of being the baits of persecution. Regardless of the position in where a country stands in terms of legalisation; the community still continue to face harassment and discrimination such as being refused employment at work places and being physically abused by bias people. (Beyond Blue 2019)Society’s PerceptionTaiwan also known as Republic of China (Breen et al., 2013, p.6), as the name suggests, adheres to the constitutional laws set by China, and also share a similar culture. Dating back to the 1970’s it was a traditional belief in the Chinese culture, that nuptials could take place only between the opposite genders (Hung, 2018). Due to most not deviating from their customs, and only minute number of differently sexually oriented persons present in the society, most people were not familiar with the term homosexual (Damm, 2005, p.68). It is said that the publication of the book ‘Crystal Boys,’ by Pai Hsien-yung, was what initially educated most of Taiwan on male homosexuality (Huang, 2011, pg.2), and eventually through other resources such as commercials (Tin 2008), the LGBTQ became known. This acquired knowledge was not one that was widely accepted, and various factors may have influenced one’s opinion. A study that was carried out on the attitude of nurses in Taiwan towards the lesbian and gay individuals, clarified the point that certain factors contribute to the way in which they would act towards the minor sexualities. The results revealed that, nurses who had worked longer and are religious, were not in support of LGBTQ and did not show interest in providing care to the people with different sexual and gender orientations. On the other hand, nurses who are related to homosexual people, and owned higher degrees tended to provide more care to the LGBTQ and supported those persons (Yen, et al, 2007). Taking into consideration these factors, we could further make clear that the previously mentioned point is valid, as there is distinct evidence proving the link. For example, nurses who owned higher degrees had positive attitudes towards the LGBTQ, speaking in general terms; people who are more educated are more likely to have an open mind. Fact’s like these contribute to the society’s understanding and willingness to accept the LGBTQ, due to this reason it could be seen that with time, there has been an increase in tolerance towards this subject in Taiwan (Cheng, et al, 2016). Religion’s PerspectiveOne of the major topics that influence one’s opinion on homosexuality is religion. Taiwan is a country that is very liberal to different cultures and religions, thus embodies a nation of believers of diverse religions (Hays, 2015). It could be seen that 35.1% of Taiwanese follow Buddhism, 33.0% Taoism, and although not a religion but merely a way of life and an ancient ethical concept, Confucianism, is also pursued (World Population Review 2019; Scroope, 2016). Other minor religious ethnicities such as Christians and Muslims also make up the community (Hays, 2015). The Buddhism that is practised in Taiwan is known as the Mahayana Buddhism (Chen 2011, pg 27). According to the monk Master Hsing Yun’s writing with regard to one of the basic texts of Mahayana Buddhism (Robinson, 2010), he states the homosexuality is not a misconduct and it is people that need to learn to tolerate all sort of human behaviours. In addition to that statement, in an analysis of Buddhism and homosexuality (Silva, 2013; O’Brien 2018), further clarifies that, due to the topic of homosexuality not been emphasized or explicitly mentioned on Buddha’s discourses, it is interpreted that homosexuality can be taken into understanding the same way heterosexuality is. It has also been stated that certain acts however, need to be avoided not because they are wrong in ethical terms, but rather for the reasons that these acts may lead to social disapproval or be a legal offense. Considering this point, it could be evaluated that, homosexuality, although itself not a violation of the principals of Buddhism, is yet a wrongdoing according to Taiwan, as it is a state of being that is disregarded by the society and a violation of the law. Taoism on the other hand, does not mention anything of expressing disapproval to the people of different sexual orientations or preferences. A citizen was said to have stated that homosexuality is against Taoism, as it goes against the natural order of the world. To clarify the authenticity of this statement a question was posed at a well renowned author of the genre Tao, to which he replied, the subject of gender is not what Taoism looks into, instead it is the spiritual nature of love and kindness that the religion focuses on, therefore it is no sin (Lin, 2014). The sacred texts of the Bible, followed by the Christians, condemn sexual acts between men while the Quran, clearly mentions that sexual activity between the genders of the same sex is forbidden (Hildebrandt, 2014).On the whole, the conclusion that can be drawn is that, not every person is pious; and religious concepts are not always considered when making decisions of supporting or going against the LGBTQ. In addition to the most of the general public who does lean toward being devoted to the customs of one’s religion, has a level of tendency to misconceptualize the actual teachings of one’s faith, and may arrive at a faulty belief. Consequently according to Taiwan’s religions, it could be seen that these religions are very much tolerant towards the LGBTQ community, and the impact religion has on shaping people’s thoughts is quite low, and this leads to the interpretation that there are larger factors that contribute to the attitudes of the community’s judgment. The Path to Legalisation The LGBTQ movement began after the uplift of the martial law, around the 1990’s. Since then the LGBTQ community has been fighting for their rights, by trying to pass bills and hosting Pride events to give voice to their rights. The initial LGBT movement was the founding of the lesbian group, ‘Between Us’ in the 1900’s and thereafter in 1998 the first legally registered LGBTQ organisation, called the ‘Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline Association’ came into existence (Gil. D. L. 2013). The first gay parade was held in 2003 and since then Pride events were held annually (gaystarnews), and Taiwan is known to have held the largest Pride event in Asia as of October 27th 2018 till date ( battle to instil change upon the marriage equality law had been a tough course as the LGBTQ community had to face many obstacles from the opposition crowd in order to successfully fulfil their objective. The first legal attempt to amend the law was in 2003 and the second in 2005, but unfortunately these proposals were rejected (gaystarnews). Despite the adverse response, the LGBTQ and the Democratic Progressive Party or DPP (a political party) still continued to put forward bills, and some of these bills passed on the first reading. However a bill needs to go through at least three readings before it could come into effect (foucustaiwan). This was a difficult task to achieve as there was always some sort of hindrance that prevented the bills from passing. The situation in 2012 is a perfect example to the previous statement; when the Taiwan Alliance to Promote Partnership Rights (an organisation that seeks to provide people the right and protection they deserve), proposed a draft requesting to amend the law on marriage, on behalf of the LGBTQ, it was passed by the judicial court in 2013. But the hopes of those who looked forward to the change was soon diminished, because the anti- LGBTQ groups spread videos about how sexually transmitted diseases could increase following the change, and organised mass rallies voicing out their disapproval in 2013 leading the court to questioning their consent (international Rocky). In addition to bills, polls and referendums were also conducted to take note of the public’s opinion regarding same sex marriages so that the Legislative Yuan of Taiwan could consider these votes when making a decision. Polls were held both privately and publicly and the results are as follows.Polls Held in Taiwan: Same- Sex MarriageYear Number of people that support (%) Number of people that don’t support (%)2012 52.2 47.82013 53.7 46.32014 67.5 32.52015 71 292016 51.7 48.32018 34.1 65.9 * The above values have been taken out of a total percentage of 100, the exact number of people that voted and the number of votes that were nullified has not been taken into consideration. As for the results of the polls, the percentage of people who agrees to the change in law can be seen to increase from the year 2012 to 2015, where 2015 has the highest voting for supporting. The increase in voting could be due to reasons such as more education regarding gender and equality and a higher percentage of voters belonging to the middle age category. This increase however takes a whole new turn in the polls held in the years 2016 and 2018, where a sudden decrease in supporter can be seen. According to (Taiwan.insight) Rich T. S. et al (2019), the explanation given to this sudden change that the 2018 referendum was one that was hosted by the political party Kuomintang of China (KMT) which is against the amendment of the marriage law. The measures that were taken by these anti- LGBTQ communities such as spreading negative information like family structure being distorted and how there will be an increase in HIV/ AIDS had a larger impact on individuals than the message that lacked clarity given by the DPP. Establishing the New LawRegardless of the referendums and public rallies that took place, on the 17th of May 2019, Taiwan’s Legislative Court passed the bill on same- sex marriage officially legalising it, and was officially going into effect on the 24th of May 2019 (cnn). It is this very judicial triumph that the LGBTQ have been restless to achieve. As mentioned before the initiative to make an amendment in the law began 2003 but only in 2017 did the court actually begin considering it. On the 24th of May 2017, the Constitutional Court gave verdict stating that refusing two people of the same gender to marry violates their right to equality and their legal right to marry, thus paving the path to Taiwan being the first country in Asia to legalise same sex marriage (Researchgate LGBT rights in Taiwan). Taiwan’s legislature was given a two-year deadline by which it must enact legislation to allow same-sex marriage ( This was successfully completed by 2019, renewing lives of the LGBTQ community, as they are now endowed with the freedom of marital fulfilment. Impacts of Legalisation RevolutionThe revolutionary movement made by Taiwan has set an example to many other nations, as to how governing bodies of a country could always stand up for the minority, and consider referendums as means of public opinion, but not take action based on the choice of the majority especially if they are discriminatory (Knight K. 2019). This celebratory law has opened up new doors of freedom and opportunity. However, this decree only agrees to grant the LGBTQ the liberty of marriage and prohibits the Taiwanese from getting married to persons from foreign countries. In addition to that they also have limited rights when it comes to adoption; the same sex couples can only adopt if the child is a biological offspring of one of the partners (Tang W. A. et al, 2019). These privileges not being granted to the LGBTQ does appear to be a little unjust, but it could be justified by understanding that allowing international marriage may lead to conflicts between countries if the countries have no law that approves of same- sex marriages. Also, the limitation of adoption, as stated by Professor Perreau B. could be vindicated by regarding his point of view in which he questions the action of adoption itself. He states; “Under the new legal regime, same-sex married couples will only have a limited access to adoption, that of the biological child of one of the spouses. The number of children available for adoption has indeed dramatically decreased worldwide over the past fifteen years. In this context, gay adoption is often regarded as competing with adoption by heterosexual parents. Also, adoption of non-biological children raises an even broader question: isn’t the family, whether based on biology or not, always already a choice? This viewpoint has major political consequences since the sense of belonging to a nation is itself based on metaphors of the family. This is why opening adoption of non-biological children to gay married couples can appear more unsettling than gay marriage itself! ”This leads people to an understanding as to why the government may have limited their right to adoption.MoralityLesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer persons are known to have existed for over decades. It is due to the fact that most countries have been accepting this community, and schools have been educating the students about the minor genders and sexualities, that most people have come to know of them. Nonetheless it could still be seen that, even though countries have come up with the decision of accepting the LGBTQ, most citizens of that nation are not too willing to treat them the same as they would heterosexual persons. The discussion of Taiwan fundamentally clarifies the same. Raising the question of morality, if Taiwan’s decision was a right movement made, we could argue that on one hand yes, as it complies with the right of humanity and fulfilment of their essential needs. On the other hand, the matter of, if this step, fully eradicated the biasness, and discriminatory ways of people in its society, and if it ensures communal standards of living, remains open. Considering Taiwan, it could be stated that despite the enactment of the law, according to Lu J. (2019) LGBTQ individuals may still face judgement in their daily lives. And most people are still afraid to come out, and this again states that this law hasn’t fully changed the minds of people, as minds are a structure that cannot be controlled by fellow beings. Also this law doesn’t promise equality, as the LGBTQ community do not hold certain liberties that the heterosexual people are endowed with, such as adoption rights. Alternatively taking into account all of these, it could be concluded that despite the ethics of the situation, Taiwan has exemplified how to stand up for the minorities of a country, and this big step is definitely a major lead that probably gives the LGBTQ communities all over the world hope to one day achieve this in their own countries.