Gay rights: Each day’s delay risks tragedies

Late last month, the Ministry of the Interior nullified a marriage registration because the couple’s “legal genders” when they wedded last year were different from their “biological genders” following the couple’s sex reassignment surgeries. I am opposed to this decision as a supporter of same-sex marriage and because it is a violation of the Constitution.
Even in the US, where traditional Christian and Catholic views are predominant, the US Supreme Court made two landmark rulings in favor of same-sex marriage last month.
The rulings said that the country’s Defense of Marriage Act was a violation of the US constitution because the law’s restriction of marriage to unions between a man and a woman was against the “equal protection principle.” Taiwan claims to protect all human rights, including equality, so how should the Taiwanese public deal with the absence of gay rights?
President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) is seen as the most gay-friendly politician in government, because during his stint as Taipei mayor, he not only designated a budget to supporting the gay movement, but also frequently attended gay events.
However, Ma has become much more conservative since he was elected president. When asked a question regarding same-sex marriage at a presidential debate during the 2008 election, he answered that the issue involved making an amendment to the Civil Code (民法), as well as social perception, and that he was “respectfully cautious” when dealing with it.
It seems that the nation’s social perceptions have evolved in the years since 2008. According to the Taiwan Social Change Survey 2013, phase 6, published by Academia Sinica’s Institute of Sociology in April, about 52 percent of respondents believed that homosexuals should be allowed to wed. This was similar to that of an opinion poll conducted by the Chinese-language United Daily News last year.
Therefore, both in theory and practice, those in power have no excuse for failing to create legislation to ensure homosexuals’ right to wed. Judging from social trends, it is only a matter of time before same-sex marriage is legalized. If this is the right thing to do and will happen eventually, why does Taiwan not take action now? In the face of institutional disapproval, suicide rates among homosexuals are much higher than among heterosexuals. So some grieving parents have even chosen to “come out” for their children after they ended their young lives. For each day this decision is delayed, there is a risk that there will be one more of these tragedies.
The legalization of same-sex marriage would mean that married homosexual couples will be entitled to the same benefits as heterosexual couples, including property inheritance, joint tax filing and family member status. More importantly, it would also mean social acceptance and recognition, which are the foundation for all human rights.
Same-sex marriage does nothing to hurt the freedom of others. That being so, some heterosexuals’ opposition may be a result of homophobia, or due to religious reasons. In Taiwan, homophobia is no longer expressed verbally in public, but reflected in the behavior of politicians who have no empathy for others.
According to Academia Sinica’s survey, non-heterosexuals account for about 4.4 percent, or about 1 million, of the nation’s population. This is a high percentage, so for how long will the so-called “democratic majority” continue to ignore this minority and continue to keep homosexuals’ constitutionally guaranteed rights locked up?
How will Ma, as both president and chairman of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), answer these questions?
C.V. Chen is a managing partner at Lee and Li Attorneys-at-law.
Translated by Eddy Chang
【20130719 Taipei Times 1020719】