Taiwan Pride (Pic: KOKUYO)
The LGBTQ community in Taiwan is mobilising support as the country prepares for an upcoming series of referenda on same-sex marriage this week.
According to the Taipei Times, around 100,000 people took part in a mass marriage equality rally in Taipei on Saturday.
The protest and concert, organised by the Gender Equality Education Coalition, included musicians, politicians and filmmakers.
“We hope to protect every family and ensure they are respected equally,” the coalition said. It expressed hope that the rally would “help heal all the pain caused by the increased political polarisation and misinformation spread by conservative groups.”
Taiwan is being asked to vote on five LGBTQ-related polls on Saturday, 24 November. Two aim to limit marriage equality and another to restrict LGBTQ inclusion in Taiwan’s school curriculum. The other two contrasting referenda are asking the public to support same-sex marriage and LGBTQ-affirming education.
In May last year, the country’s top court, the Council of Grand Justices, said in a landmark ruling that the government had two years to change the law to enact marriage equality. This would make Taiwan the first nation in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage.
The government agreed to abide by the ruling but the result of Saturday’s refrenda could see it attempt to introduce some kind of watered down legislation without full marriage equality.
According to Graeme Reid, Director of the LGBT Rights Program at Human Rights Watch, “Taiwan’s referendum has become an international proxy battle for the politics of intolerance.”
He said that, “US-based groups that failed to defeat marriage equality in the United States, including the National Organisation for Marriage, are pouring resources into the anti-equality campaign in Taiwan, using familiar tactics that exploit negative stereotypes and provoke fear.”
Last week, 27 Taiwanese and multinational companies operating in Taiwan released a statement in support of LGBTQ equality.
“We’re thankful these Taiwanese and multinational companies are speaking in one united voice in support of LGBTQ equality,” said Jennifer Lu, Taiwan Tongzhi (LGBT) Hotline Association. “These companies know that achieving marriage equality in Taiwan is not just the right thing to do, it’s also good for business. We believe that respecting diversity and inclusion can bring harmony and strength to society.”
Taiwan is regarded as one of the most progressive states in the region when it comes to LGBTQ rights. Homosexuality is legal and discrimination against gays and lesbians is outlawed in the areas of employment and education. It also hosts the largest Pride parade in Asia.
President Tsai Ing-wen – who assumed office in 2016 – has affirmed her support for marriage equality but has said that it is up to lawmakers to make this a reality.
“This is a pivotal moment for equality in the region, as Taiwan is set to become the first in Asia to recognise marriage equality,” said Ty Cobb, Director of HRC Global, Human Rights Campaign. “In order to keep the momentum moving forward, now more than ever, it’s important that fair-minded voices speak out and voice their support for LGBTQ equality.”