Monday October 21, 2019
Home Lead Story Taiwan’...

Taiwan’s Parliament Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage, Mass Weddings Planned

Parliament approved Asia’s first bill Friday to legalize same-sex marriage along with a suite of legal protections

0
//
same-sex
“We pay our taxes, we are governed by the same laws, why should we not be afforded the same rights in marriage”, says UK. VOA

Hsu Pei-chieh and her partner Yang Hsun are tired of trying to explain their relationship to everyone else. They’re going steady and share everything down to a parking pass. Hsu, 30, and Yang, 29, want to tell the outside world they’re spouses because they already call each other “wife.”

People will get it if the couple can give their relationship a “name,” said Hsu, a Taipei office worker.

The pair has also worked with Taiwan’s 20-year-old LGBT movement, which is unusually vibrant for Asia because of free speech protections and lack of a strong organized religion. Thanks to that movement, parliament approved Asia’s first bill Friday to legalize same-sex marriage along with a suite of legal protections, such as insurance and inheritance benefits.

“Today, with the passage of the law, I believe it’s got major significance for gender equality and even for the values of broader diversity,” said Hung Ya-li, deputy head of the Taiwan-based Garden of Hope Foundation’s civic dialogue office. “It wasn’t easy to get here.”

taiwan, legalizes, same sex, marriages
Gay rights supporters wait for the results under the rain outside Parliament while lawmakers discuss the same-sex marriage bill in Taipei, May 17, 2019. VOA

Hsu and Yang expect marriage to qualify them for joint travel insurance, faster tax filing and the rights to raise children together. They’re talking about one child, maybe two.

“The two of us haven’t actually run into any huge issues, but when little things come up, they can be troubling,” Hsu said. “It takes a lot of effort and energy to handle the accumulation of things that come up living together.”

First in Asia

Religion, conservative family values and political systems that discourage LGBT activism have stopped momentum in Asian countries from China through much of Southeast Asia into the Middle East. In China particularly, restrictions on assembly and media coverage have stopped the 100 LBGT groups from getting the word out.

Taiwan’s movement meanwhile has spawned annual Gay Pride parades of up to 80,000 people. Thousands stood in the rain outside Taiwan’s parliament Friday to prod legislators into passing the bill.

Also Read- Delhi Murder Case Will Never Become Dadri or Kathua, Read Here to Find out Why!

Legislators were already facing a deadline from a 2017 Constitutional Court order that required parliament to change laws to legalize same-sex marriage before May 24.

Taiwan joins 27 others

Taiwan will stand out now for its tolerance of LGBT couples, scholars on the island believe.

“If these kinds of people can be more visible, happening in our everyday life, I think that will be quite good,” said Shiau Hong-chi, professor of gender studies and communications management at Shih-Hsin University in Taiwan.

“I think the law change is the basic infrastructure that we have already pushed forward, which I believe is quite positive for democracy in Taiwan,” he said.

taiwan, legalizes, same sex, marriages
Same-sex marriage supporters shout during a parliament vote on three draft bills of a same-sex marriage law, outside the Legislative Yuan in Taipei, Taiwan, May 17, 2019. VOA

Worldwide, Taiwan joins 27 countries in legalizing same-sex marriage.

At least 20 same-sex couples are planning a mass marriage registration in Taipei on May 24, a spokesman for the advocacy group Marriage Equality Coalition Taiwan said earlier in the month. About 1,200 newlyweds and their invitees will hold a mass party a day later on a blocked-off boulevard outside the presidential office, the event organizer said.

Jay Lin, 45, is one who plans to marry — once his child care obligations allow him the time. He and his partner in Taipei are raising two boys who will turn 3 in June.

“It’s definitely something we’re planning to do,” said Lin, a Taipei-based online streaming service founder. “A lot of gay parents are excited about that already.”

Also Read- Trump’s Immigration Plan Emphasizes Skills over Family Connections

Opposition votes

The court order of 2017 also brought out Taiwan’s more conservative side, including Christian groups and backers of the traditional Chinese family headed by one man and one woman. They had protested in the streets and lobbied lawmakers, who face re-election next year, to block same-sex marriage.

“Catholicism’s definition of marriage is one man, one woman,” said Chen Ke, a Catholic pastor in Taiwan and an opponent of same-sex marriage. “Nothing else is marriage. We will respect the law, but it’s not our religion.”

Opinion surveys in 2012 and 2015 found that slight majorities of Taiwanese support same-sex marriage, but local media outlet The News Lens and PollcracyLab found in a March 2018 survey that people held “malleable” views based on how the term “legalization” was framed.

In November last year, voters passed a referendum in support of male-female marriages only. Legislators since then have fretted about which side to back.

taiwan, legalizes, same sex, marriages
Same-sex marriage supporters hold roses to mourn those who committed suicide because of discrimination during a parliament vote on three draft bills of a same-sex marriage law, outside the Legislative Yuan in Taipei, Taiwan, May 17, 2019. VOA

“I don’t think (parliament) wants to touch this,” said Joanna Lei, CEO of the Chunghua 21st Century Think Tank. “They would just wash their hands of it. Wherever you are, you may be pleasing 50 percent of the people.”

But most legislators who spoke Friday advocated some measure of protection for same-sex couples. (VOA)

Next Story

Here’s Why China Cut Off Travel Permits for Tourists Going to Taiwan

Suspending the travel permits lets China remind Taiwan of its economic clout, some analysts say

0
tourism
Chinese tourists would get close to Taiwan's political heat. Wikimedia Commons

China’s decision last week to stop issuing permits for independent tourists to Taiwan applies new economic pressure to their already strained relations, and analysts see three underlying reasons behind Beijing’s move.

Beijing’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism cited the “current mainland China-Taiwan relations” as cause to stop permitting indie travelers after about a decade. China regards self-ruled Taiwan as part of its territory rather than a state, but Taiwan prefers at least today’s level autonomy over the Chinese goal of unification. That schism has caused the two sides to chafe for 70 years.

Here are three reasons China cut off travel permits:

Taiwan’s president opposes China despite earlier pressure to get along.

Suspending the travel permits lets China remind Taiwan of its economic clout, some analysts say.

The permit shutdown ends a process that generated on average more than 82,000 arrivals per month last year, which boosted the island’s service economy.

china, tourists, taiwan
Despite the military and diplomatic pressure, the government in Taipei openly opposes rule by China. VOA

Since 2016, China has flown military aircraft near Taiwan and persuaded five Taiwanese diplomatic allies to switch their allegiance from Taipei to Beijing. The Communist leadership hopes to pressure Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen’s government to bargain with China as her predecessor did — on the condition that acknowledges both sides are considered part of the same country.

Despite the military and diplomatic pressure, the government in Taipei openly opposes rule by China. Tsai in January condemned the “one country, two systems” idea that Chinese President Xi Jinping had proposed then as a way to rule Taiwan.

China is “more than furious” that Tsai openly backs anti-Beijing protesters who have taken to the streets in Hong Kong since June, said Sean King, vice president of the Park Strategies political consultancy in New York.

China upped its warnings by calling off Taiwan-bound independent travel, said Liang Kuo-yuan, president of the Taipei research organization Polaris Research Institute. “The headline news will create some psychological effects,” Liang said. “I believe their motivation should be that mainland China wants to say ‘as well as using military threats we can also hold you back economically.’”

china, tourists, taiwan
Suspending the travel permits lets China remind Taiwan of its economic clout, some analysts say. Wikimedia Commons

Taiwan’s president faces a tough reelection bid in 2020. China hopes the tourism suspension will remind Taiwanese that “there are riches to be had” if they reject Tsai’s reelection bid in January, King said.

Tsai is running against Han Kuo-yu, a mayor who supports opening talks with China to bolster economic and investment ties. His party, when in power from 2008 to 2016, accepted Beijing’s condition that each side see itself as part of China for negotiation purposes. The two governments inked 23 deals.

Tsai rejects the one-China condition, and China cut off talks after she took office. China hopes the cut in travel permits will addle the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, said Yun Sun, East Asia Program senior associate at the Stimson Center think tank in Washington.

Hotels near tourist hotspots will take the biggest hit from the loss of self-guided tourists, though many had expected business to taper due to the decline in political relations, said Peter Lin, chief executive officer of the Topology Travel Agency in Taipei. Losses from the travel suspension are estimated at about $1 billion per year.

tourists, china, taiwan
Independent travel permits had been suspended because of increasing “risks” for travelers before the election. Wikimedia Commons

“The Chinese do want to show that DPP [Democratic Progressive Party] is not doing good things and want to punish the DPP,” Sun said. “They want to squeeze the election, and tourism is a very convenient channel. The tourism industry in Taiwan will be hit pretty hard.”

Chinese tourists would get close to Taiwan’s political heat. China’s official television network said on its Weibo social media website Wednesday that independent travel permits had been suspended because of increasing “risks” for travelers before the election.

ALSO READ: Uganda Begins Largest-Ever Ebola Vaccine Trial to Prevent Disease from Speading

Beijing frets about its tourists being drawn to Taiwan’s democratic institutions including its unfettered mass media, King said. Relations with China are shaping up as a core presidential campaign issue with daily media coverage.

“There’s the incidental bonus for Beijing of having fewer of its citizens exposed to the island’s vigorously open political culture,” King said. “This fact cannot be overlooked, especially given the protests in Hong Kong, uncensored coverage of which mainland visitors get to see on their Taiwan hotel television screens.” (VOA)