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Taiwan clears path for same-sex marriage

Church official says he is worried court decision could be divisive

ucanews.com reporter, Hong Kong

ucanews.com reporter, Hong Kong

Published: May 25, 2017 09:51 AM GMT

Updated: May 25, 2017 10:00 AM GMT

Taiwan clears path for same-sex marriage

A group of Taiwanese Christian pastors protest against same-sex marriage in November 2016. Taiwan's constitutional court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage on May 24. (Photo supplied)

A Catholic Church official has cautioned people in Taiwan that society might split further apart after the Constitutional Court in Taiwan ruled it was illegal to ban same-sex marriage.

Twenty out of 15 justices ruled May 24 that current laws that disallowed same-sex couples to get marriage contradicted Article 7 and 22 of the constitution of the Republic of China that guarantees people's freedom. They ordered the legislature to make the change within two years.

Father Otfried Chan, secretary general of the bishops' conference of Taiwan, worried that the ruling would split society.

"Many people still do not know what has happened due to a lack of consultation. During discussions over the next two years, many questions will arise as people become more aware," Father Chan told ucanews.com.

In a press conference after the ruling, Father Chan said he understood that many young people supported same-sex marriage because they are "sympathetic" to their peers. "From this we can see that they are eager to create an equal, non-discriminating society and that's very positive."

"Some people think the Catholic Church is upholding old values but truth is not distinguished by old or new. The church is merciful and willing to reach out to people and is always open for dialogue with people, especially the youth," he said.

earlier, more than 20,000 same-sex marriage supporters waited outside the court for the announcement. Gay rights activist Chi Chia-wei, who launched the court procedure, said he was very happy with the result and asked his supporters to forgive and talk to their opponents.

Chi, the first Taiwanese man to publicly come out as gay in 1975, filed the petition after he failed to register a marriage with his partner legally in 2013.

In 2016, debates in the Legislative Yuen had to be put on hold following massive protests from supporters and opponents of the move. Debate is ongoing whether to formulate a special law for same-sex couples or to amend the current laws that would change the definition of marriage.

Protectors of the Family, a coalition of religions and groups that oppose same-sex marriage, did not accept the court's ruling. Andrew Chang, spokesman of the coalition, said they are planning to appeal for a re-interpretation of the constitution or petition the Control Yuan, which exercises supervision of the government, to impeach the grand justices.

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Equal Love, a website that supports same-sex marriage, claimed that a survey by a Taiwan think-tank showed 71.2 percent of people aged 20-29 supported marriage equality.

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."

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