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Taiwan introduces gay marriage bill

Ruling party aims to deliver on 2016 election promise to grant 'permanent unions' to same-sex couples

ucanews reporter, Taipei

ucanews reporter, Taipei

Published: February 22, 2019 10:07 AM GMT
Taiwan introduces gay marriage bill

Taiwanese LGBT rights activist Chi Chia-wei on a rally for gay rights in 2017. (Photo from Wikipedia)

Taiwan's government has introduced Asia’s first gay marriage bill that would grant "permanent unions" to same-sex couples and give them limited adoption rights.

The move immediately met opposition from conservative groups opposed to gay marriage and from rights groups who felt the bill did not go far enough.

The ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) under President Tsai Ing-wen is looking to deliver on a 2016 election pledge to grant same-sex couples equal marriage rights.

However, its moves to do so have suffered setbacks, such as in a November 2018 referendum that was won by conservatives looking to prevent a change in the Civil Code to allow gay marriage.  

The referendum followed a Constitutional Court ruling to legalize gay marriage in 2017.

Denying same-sex couples the right to marry went against the charter it said without telling the government how it should go about changing the law to allow it.

The bill introduced on Feb. 21 was the government’s attempt at a balancing act to adhere to the court’s ruling while respecting the November referendum outcome by not changing the Civil Code

The code strictly defines marriage as being between a man and a woman.

The new bill released by the justice ministry proposes allowing "two persons of the same sex to create a permanent union of intimate and exclusive nature for the committed purpose of managing a life together to realize the equal protection of the freedom of marriage."

Gay couples will be allowed to adopt the biological children of their partner, with both parties financially responsible for each other and entitled to inheritance rights.

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The law is set to take effect on May 24 but needs to be backed by parliament, where the DPP holds a majority.

Taiwan is regarded as one of the most progressive Asian societies over gay rights, staging the biggest gay pride parade in Asia annually. Gay marriage rights are particularly supported by young people.

However, Taiwan remains a staunchly conservative place with powerful religious lobbies, especially outside urban areas.

President Tsai supported the legalization of gay marriage before her election but has since said there needs to be more consensus in society.

If the bill is passed, it would be Asia's first gay marriage law. In December, Thailand's military rulers proposed a similar bill but have yet to put it before parliament.

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