Deep di­vi­sions in Tai­wan on gay mar­riage re­form

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Watch­ing her bois­ter­ous twin tod­dlers romp around the liv­ing room, Hope Chen wor­ries what would hap­pen to them if she ever fell se­ri­ously ill or had an ac­ci­dent. In a worst case sce­nario, it should be her part­ner of seven years who would look af­ter them, Chen says. But Tai­wan does not rec­og­nize them both as le­gal guardians be­cause they are gay and can­not marry. Chen, 37, gave birth us­ing eggs from her part­ner Zoro Wen. She had to travel to Thai­land for IVF, which is only al­lowed in Tai­wan for legally mar­ried cou­ples.

“I’m the mother who gave birth so I’m the only le­gal par­ent,” Chen, 37, told AFP from the fam­ily’s Taoyuan apart­ment in the north of Tai­wan, where a floor-to-ceil­ing book­case in­cludes the ti­tle “Why do you have two moms? For her, even though they have blood re­la­tions, she has no parental rights,” says Chen.

Men in an un­mar­ried het­ero­sex­ual re­la­tion­ship can still gain guardian­ship of their chil­dren through adop­tion-an op­tion which is also not avail­able to Chen and Wen. The cou­ple hopes things will soon change as par­lia­ment de­bates amend­ments to the civil law that would make the is­land the first place in Asia to le­galise same-sex mar­riage. But while sup­port for mar­riage equal­ity has gained mo­men­tum since pro-gay rights Pres­i­dent Tsai Ing-wen came to power in May, so too have re­sist­ing voices, re­veal­ing a di­vided so­ci­ety deeply rooted in tra­di­tional fam­ily val­ues.

Both sides have staged large-scale ral­lies in the past month, at­tract­ing tens of thou­sands, ahead of a crit­i­cal sec­ond re­view of three draft bills for mar­riage equal­ity on De­cem­ber 26. The first re­view in Novem­ber held by a par­lia­men­tary vet­ting com­mit­tee-to de­cide on one ver­sion to put for­ward to the leg­is­la­ture-ended with­out con­sen­sus as thou­sands of pro­test­ers crit­i­cised the lack of pub­lic par­tic­i­pa­tion in draft­ing the bills. “There is now such a high ex­pec­ta­tion for the dream to be re­alised. You can’t bring it crash­ing down, can you?” Yu Mei-nu, a law­maker who pro­posed one of the bills on be­half of Tsai’s rul­ing Demo­cratic Pro­gres­sive Party (DPP), said in an in­ter­view re­fer­ring to op­po­nents of re­form. Tai­wan is one of the re­gion’s most for­ward-think­ing so­ci­eties when it comes to gay rights, host­ing a gay pride pa­rade which draws tens of thou­sands ev­ery year.

Still, past at­tempts to le­gal­ize same-sex mar­riage stalled un­der the then rul­ing Kuom­intang (KMT) party, which dom­i­nated pol­i­tics for decades be­fore be­ing un­seated by the DPP in this year’s elec­tions. A re­cent poll by think tank Tai­wanese Pub­lic Opin­ion Foun­da­tion shows the pub­lic is evenly split on the is­sue.

‘Ba­sic morals’ -

Mother-of-three Becky Wu, who is the head of a par­ents’ union of Taipei el­e­men­tary schools, says she is con­cerned that changes to the civil law will im­pact what she sees as fun­da­men­tals in Tai­wanese so­ci­ety. “Our ba­sic morals and con­cepts, an­ces­try, grand­mother, grand­fa­ther, mother, fa­ther-all those will dis­ap­pear,” she said. “It be­comes the rights of the mi­nor­ity over the rights of the ma­jor­ity,” said Wu. “In the past, kids were taught men and women have sex be­cause they love each other and marry,” she said. “Now they’re told love is not a pre­req­ui­site and they’re free to ex­per­i­ment, whether with men or women.” Re­li­gious groups re­main the staunch­est crit­ics of gay mar­riage, with an al­liance of Bud­dhist, Taoist and Chris­tian or­gan­i­sa­tions is­su­ing a state­ment last month warn­ing of the de­struc­tion to so­cial ethics and tra­di­tional fam­ily val­ues. — AFP

TAIPAI: This pic­ture taken on Novem­ber 17, 2016 shows a sup­porter of same-sex mar­riage hold­ing a rain­bow flag out­side the Par­lia­ment. — AFP

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