LGBTQ Pride Month

How LGBT Youth In Asia Are Reacting To Taiwan's Landmark Court Ruling

"One of my LGBT friends in Hong Kong cried when the ruling came out."

Last week, Taiwan's constitutional court struck down their Civil Code's definition of marriage as exclusively being between a man and a woman.

The court's ruling means Taiwan's legislature has two years to implement laws related to same-sex couples, or to amend its Civil Code, otherwise, marriage registration will automatically recognize same-sex couples. 

LeeWang Ching, the founding organizer of a Taipei LGBTQ+ social group and co-founder of Queerious, says the ruling "symbolizes true equality" and finally recognizes all Taiwanese citizens as equal, regardless of sexual orientation. But it also means the tide could be turning across Asia.

"One of my LGBT friends in Hong Kong cried when the ruling came out," Ching told A Plus. "I'd like to believe that it ignited hope in LGBTQ+ communities in other Asian countries."

Photo: LeeWang Ching

LGBT activists could also now push marriage equality bills forward that may make it legal for same-sex marriage in Taiwan sooner rather than later.

This ruling was brought about by petitions from Chi Chia-wei, a gay rights activist, and the city government of Taipei, Taiwan's capital.

Chi hopes to see an amendment to the Civil Code, which defines family laws in Taiwan, that makes marriage a bond between two spouses and not just a man and a woman. Chi told The New York Times that a separate law for gays and lesbians would "be a disaster." The Taipei city government petition was brought forward after marriage applications for LGBT couples were consistently rejected. 

Photo: Queerious 
Photo: Queerious 

Despite the ruling, the topic remains controversial and divisive. 

"Many people switched to marriage equality-themed profile photos on Facebook to celebrate and support," Ching, who is 25 years old, told A Plus. "The opponents have been actively leveraging community members to influence public opinion by spreading false information in group chats and participating in polls held by different media channels on this matter."

Similar to the United States, Taiwan has local elections approaching in 2018 and a presidential election in 2020. Current President Tsai Ing-wen initially offered words of support while campaigning, saying, "In the face of love, everyone is equal," but has since spoken more reservedly on the issue.

"Since elected, President Tsai has tried to stay neutral and diplomatic," Ching said. "It was rather problematic to treat the pro side and con side as equals since most arguments against same-sex marriage the religious groups posed were irrational and based on ignorance and discrimination."

While the ruling is a first for Asia, there is still a long way to go. The Taiwanese Public Opinion Foundation, a think tank, polled the public and found that it is evenly split on the issue. Neighboring countries have taken similarly progressive steps but failed to get real traction; only local Japanese governments recognize same-sex marriages and Thailand had a bill for marriage equality that was thrown off track by political unrest in the country. Even as LGBT activists celebrated, opponents protested the ruling and claimed it was the result of "black box politics."

"On a personal level, many LGBTQ+ people in Taiwan are still closeted, not daring to share news on this matter even," Ching said. "Many still have their own battle to fight in their own families, workplace and beyond."

Cover photo: LeeWáng Ching and weniliou



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