Taiwan’s Top Court Declares Same-Sex Marriage a Constitutional Right

On Wednesday, May 24, Taiwan’s Constitutional Court ruled that the nation’s law recognizing exclusively heterosexual marriage violates the country’s Constitution.

Taiwan has long been viewed as one of Asia’s most progressive nations on the gay rights front. Indeed, in recent years, Taiwan’s LGBT community has gained significant prominence and social standing.

As in other nations, however, the issue of marriage equality has provoked significant division among Taiwanese society — and a number of civil suits have emerged as a result.

Judges in the Constitutional Court gave a definitive answer in favor of equality this past week by striking down a provision in Taiwan’s Civil Code that only recognized opposite-sex marriage. The Court specifically noted that this legislation violates Taiwan’s commitments to equal treatment of all citizens.

This ruling doesn’t technically legalize marriage equality right away, however.

Out of respect for the legislative branch, the Court has given the Legislative Yuan two years to author and pass legislation recognizing marriage equality. But if the parliament fails to do so, the Court maintains that same-gender marriages will be recognized.

The New York Times reports:

If the legislature fails to pass an amendment or legislation in the next two years, same-sex couples “shall be allowed to have their marriage registration effectuated at the authorities in charge of household registration,” the court wrote in a news release.

Will lawmakers act?

Although they’ve proposed new legislation, the draft has stalled. That said, Tsai Ing-Wen, Taiwan’s president, supports marriage equality, so she may be able to push lawmakers into completing the work they have already started.

And this is one of the rare instances in which a political “get out of jail free” card exists: the Constitutional Court has already declared same-gender marriage a right.

As such, even those opposed to marriage equality can shield themselves from political backlash if they remove their resistance to this change, arguing that it is simply now a matter of following the directive given by the court.

Yet, significant opposition to same-gender marriage within Taiwan — and elsewhere — remains. MassResistance, a Southern Poverty Law Center-designated hate group from Massachusetts, has reportedly opposed efforts to legalize marriage equality in Taiwan for a number of months now.

Taiwan is the first country in Asia to designate marriage equality as a legal right for its citizens — but it won’t be the last.

Thailand, for instance, has made great strides toward LGBT rights in recent years, and the country has seemed poised to recognize marriage equality for a while now. Despite recent setbacks, Thailand remains a leading contender for the next country to recognize this civil right.

Cambodia may also follow suit, as many of its political leaders express support for marriage equality and same-gender marriages continue to take place on the local level.

But what about Taiwan’s older sibling China? Will this ruling influence the People’s Republic?

That’s doubtful, at least in the short term. China’s presiding government has an uneasy relationship with LGBT rights, but in context this relationship is markedly different from, say, the hostility displayed in North African regions like Uganda or Eastern European regions like Chechnya.

China remains permissive of its LGBT community — up to a point. And that line is drawn at granting official recognition or allowing open displays of advocacy. And that speaks to the country’s overall desire to quell dissent –not specifically an anti-LGBT viewpoint.

Even so, Chinese LGBT rights activists have felt empowered by Taiwan’s ruling and claim that it makes LGBT advocacy efforts in Chinese that much harder to ignore.

In the meantime, Taiwanese LGBT rights groups are celebrating this victory not just as a win for LGBT rights, but also as another landmark decision for the rapidly evolving country. Despite Taiwan’s troubled history, it is working toward a future in which all citizens’ rights are honored. The local LGBT community certainly wants this change to come into effect as soon as possible.

“We feel that this is a huge success for the LGBT and marriage equality movement in Taiwan,” Wayne Lin, an LGBT rights activist, stated. “We want to amend the Civil Code so same-sex couples can get married… our target is to complete this whole process within this year.”

Congratulations to Taiwan!

Photo credit: YC Lo.

180 comments

Melania P
Melania P8 days ago

Very cool!

SEND
Beth M
Beth M12 days ago

ty

SEND
Beth M
Beth M12 days ago

ty

SEND
Beth M
Beth M12 days ago

ty

SEND
Beth M
Beth M12 days ago

ty

SEND
Beth M
Beth M12 days ago

ty

SEND
Beth M
Beth M12 days ago

ty

SEND
Beth M
Beth M12 days ago

ty

SEND
Beth M
Beth M12 days ago

ty

SEND
Philippa P
Philippa Powersabout a month ago

Good for Taiwan!

SEND