Taiwan’s same-sex union bill is historic, but is it good enough?

Taiwan Pride (Pic: KOKUYO)

Taiwan has made history by becoming the first Asian nation to introduce a bill to recognise same-sex relationships, but it falls short of full marriage equality.

On Thursday, Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) revealed the proposed law that would give same sex-couples the right to register “permanent unions”.

The draft law includes provisions that encompass inheritance rights, medical rights, mutual support and financial obligations, adoption of biological children of one spouse and divorce.

It aims to comply with the May 2017 ruling by the country’s top court, the Council of Grand Justices, which gave the government two years to change the law to enact marriage equality.

However, in an effort to appease conservatives and the broader public that oppose same-sex marriage, it does not seek to change the Civil Code defining marriage as being between a man and a woman.

In November, millions of voters rejected both marriage equality and LGBTI inclusive education in a series of non-binding referenda. They backed the definition of marriage as the union of only a man and woman. They also voted against retaining LGBTI inclusion in Taiwan’s school curriculum.

Taiwan Premier Su Tseng-chang admitted that the new bill is a compromise that aims to balance the constitutional court decision and the referenda results.

“Controversies are expected about the proposal, but I really hope our homosexual friends can wait a bit longer,” said Su. “This might fall short of expectations, but after all, it’s a start. It has come from nothing to something.”

Amnesty International nevertheless welcomed the release of the draft law. “This is a huge step forward for marriage equality in Taiwan,” said Annie Huang, Amnesty International Taiwan’s Director. “The draft law is the first of its kind in Asia to allow same-sex marriage. It sends a strong message to the Taiwanese people and the world that Taiwan chooses love over hate, and equality over discrimination.”

Huang acknowledged that, “There are some areas where this separate law falls short of genuine marriage equality. This will require future reforms to fully align opposite-sex and same-sex marriage in law.”

The bill aims to become law on 24 May but must still be passed by parliament, where the DPP has a majority, to come into effect.

Taiwan is regarded as one of the most progressive states in the region when it comes to LGBTI 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.

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