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Taiwan bishops voice opposition to same-sex marriage bill

Island has one of the most LGBT-friendly societies in Asia but the church thinks things have gone too far

Francis Kuo, Taipei

Francis Kuo, Taipei

Published: November 29, 2016 03:51 AM GMT

Updated: November 29, 2016 06:27 AM GMT

Taiwan bishops voice opposition to same-sex marriage bill

Some religious pressure groups and lobbyists are against Taiwan's same-sex marriage bill and protested on Nov. 17. (ucanews.com photo)

The Catholic bishops’ conference in Taiwan has issued a statement stating the church's stance against a bill that would allow same-sex marriage and asked churchgoers on the island to pray and fast for the cause.

"The amendments to the civil law will overturn the traditional monogamous marriage system, resulting in changes in the appellation of parents and grandparents, family ethics, moral values. Its impact on family morality and social order is huge," the bishops said.

"The bill has not been thoroughly discussed in society. There are shortcomings in the amendment procedure while the consequences have not been carefully assessed. Pushing it hastily might lead to more complicated social problems," they added.

Taiwan has long been on the forefront of LGBT equality rights in Asia with some 80,000 people attending the gay pride event in October. But not all sections of society are happy.

About 20,000 Christians protested in front of the legislative Yuan on Nov. 17 as the same-sex marriage bill entered its second reading. They were angry that the bill was tabled in the Yuan without forewarning.

They were also irked at President Tsai Ing-wen who reportedly told some lawmakers that "she never heard of any opposition against same-sex marriage from the church."

The protesters, organized by "Taiwan Family," an amalgamation of different pressure groups, demanded 30 public hearings and a referendum.

Lawmakers were forced to suspend the second reading of the bill but they only agreed to two public hearings on Nov. 24 and Nov. 28 before the Judicial and Legal Committee restarts the procedure, noting that there have been a number of public hearings on the same topic in the past years.

All eight bishops in seven dioceses in Taiwan signed the statement on Nov. 22. They declared they have the duty to safeguard morality and uphold church teachings.

The bishops also appealed to all parishes to encourage Catholics to hold the Adoration of the Eucharist and to fast and pray for the marriage system, state policy and well-being of people.

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On Nov. 22, a group of young Catholics initiated a survey, asking fellow youth to share their views on same-sex marriage. However, the organizer refused to disclose the results, noting that it is for the bishops' internal reference.

Taiwanese-Canadian commentator Gloria Hu dismissed charges of "immorality" in an article for Thinking Taiwan claiming that "ultraconservative groups [like the International House of Prayer] seek to foist their morality on others, on issues ranging from family structure to the content of school curricula and access to contraceptive measures."

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered" but adds, however, that gay persons "must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity."

Marriage between same-sex couples is not legally recognized in Taiwan and LGBT activists say legal recognition of same-sex couples is necessary to enjoy rights such as property inheritance rights and hospital visitation rights afforded to others.

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