Taiwan to hold same-sex marriage referendum

  • 09/10/2018
Participants hold giant rainbow flags during the Taiwan LGBT Pride Parade in Taipei October 31, 2015. Thousands of Taiwanese gathered with people from Hong Kong, Korea and Japan on Saturday for the annual Gay Pride parade which is in its 13th year, according to organizers. REUTERS/Pichi Chuang - RTX1U2IE
Photo credit: Reuters

Taiwan will hold a public vote on whether its civil law should recognise same-sex marriage, reviving a debate over a separate law for civil unions between gay couples.

In Asia's first such ruling, the country's constitutional court declared in May last year that same-sex couples had the right to legally marry, and set a two-year deadline for legalisation.

But in August an activist group proposed a vote on the issue, saying a separate law would defend "family values".

After a month-long review, the commission decided November 24 as the date of the referendum.

The referendum will cover whether the scope of marriage should be limited to a bond between a man and a woman, and whether a special law is needed to protect same-sex couples' right to a "permanent union".

Welcoming the news of a referendum, David Tseng, chairman of a group opposed to same-sex marriage, the Coalition for the Happiness of Our Next Generation, said the issue would "entirely affect Taiwan's moral principles and family values."

Activists who have long campaigned for same-sex marriage called the referendum "discriminatory" since it went against the 2017 ruling that current laws violate the right to freedom of marriage and equality.

"As Taiwanese, we feel sorry but we don't have time and room for disappointment," said Jennifer Lu, coordinator of Marriage Equality Coalition Taiwan.

LGBT activists say President Tsai Ing-wen's government promised marriage equality during the 2016 election campaign but has made little progress on the issue.