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Taiwan could lead Asia with full recognition of gay rights

Last week, a group of university students praised Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen for her stance on gender equality, specifically pointing out for admiration Tsai's promises to protect gay rights. It is of course, election season. Politicians invariably pander to voters by making pledges that are only sometimes carried out. But Tsai may not have ulterior motives. After all, “pandering” to the gay community might not exactly be a vote-getter. Gay people likely make up less than 10 percent of the population and the percentage of local voters with reservations about homosexuality almost certainly outnumber gay voters. Not much is known about its proposals, but the DPP has promised to release a more detailed “white paper” on the subject of the promotion of gay rights before the January presidential election.

The ultimate goal of Taiwan's gay rights movement is no doubt the legalization of same-sex marriage. A bill termed “The Basic Human Rights Law,” which would have made Taiwan the first place in Asia to allow same-sex marriage was in fact drafted in 2003 during the administration of former President Chen Shui-bian, but no action was taken by Taiwan's legislature. President Ma Ying-jeou's administration has promoted gender equality and women's rights, but gay rights have not made much headway during his term. When Ma served as Taipei mayor, he attended a gay rights awareness event and was quoted as saying “Homosexuality is a natural phenomenon that cannot be suppressed away nor spread beyond its natural bounds. Gay rights are a part of human rights.” While Mayor Ma seemed ahead of the curve on this issue, President Ma and his administration now seem to prefer sticking to a “don't rock the boat” strategy.

There has even been some backsliding: a plan to teach “gay issues” in elementary and junior high school curricula was recently cancelled by the Ministry of Education citing a lack of “social consensus.” But when it comes to human rights and equality, a consensus is not required. In the United States, courts integrated schools and permitted mixed-race marriages during a time when the majority of voters would have rejected any pro-equality ballot measures. There is no need to teach children the “mechanics” of gay romance, but a curriculum that discusses the fact that gay people are “normal” individuals who are a part of every society on earth would have been a good step forward.

Let's be frank: Gay rights affect a very small section of Taiwanese society, so small as to make some wonder what all the fuss is about. But as Ma once noted, “Gay rights are a part of human rights.” The fight for equal rights for gays has been described as “the last major human rights struggle.” How a nation treats its gay citizens is a good indicator of the general progressiveness of its society. It would likely cost President Ma a little political capital to directly call for legalizing gay marriage in Taiwan, but the overall benefit to the nation and the region could be worth it. Taiwan's people for the most part do not have strong religious objections to homosexuality and there is little organized opposition to gay rights here. All that's needed for this nation to become a bellwether for Asia is a nudge in the right direction from those in power.

New York recently passed a bill allowing same-sex marriage in the state by a slender majority of 33 to 29. Republican state Senator Mark J. Grisanti had promised his supporters he would fight New York's gay marriage bill, but said he “agonized for months” before finally coming to the conclusion that he was wrong. Senator Grisanti apologized to those who might be offended, but said he could not legally justify denying his fellow human beings — and fellow taxpayers — the same rights he enjoys. Such courage is commendable and should be emulated.

October 9, 2011    rickelopez@
One of us is a Taiwanese national and me, a Cuban-American living in Taiwan. We met in the USA and fell in love; I had two choices - give up or come to Taiwan. I chose to come to Taiwan and continue with the life we started in the States. I've come to love Taiwan as much as my birth country Cuba and my second home The United States of America. Now reading this article has given us hope that maybe in the near future we would be able to get married in Taiwan. It would be an honor to say, we've gotten married in the Island of Formosa. As of right now we continue to be engaged until either Taiwan or the USA can completely fulfill the basic right to all it's citizens - to marry the one they love. Love conquers all, happy people always succeed in all their endeavors. We continue to pursue our love, our goals, and most importantly our happiness.
October 19, 2011    liuandco@
rickelopez@ wrote:
One of us is a Taiwanese national and me, a Cuban-American living in Taiwan. We met in the USA and fell in love; I had two choices - give up or come to Taiwan. I chose to come to Taiwan and continue with the life we started in the States. I've come to love Taiwan as much as my birth country Cuba and my second home The United States of America. Now reading this article has given us hope that maybe in the near future we would be able to get married in Taiwan. It would be an honor to say, we've gotten married in the Island of Formosa. As of right now we continue to be engaged until either Taiwan or the USA can completely fulfill the basic right to all it's citizens - to marry the one they love. Love conquers all, happy people always succeed in all their endeavors. We continue to pursue our love, our goals, and most importantly our happiness.
My partner and I have been together for almost thirteen years and yet I am still unable to join his family and move to Taiwan. His family is very accepting and welcoming and would like us both to be with them in Taiwan. Sadly at the moment we are unable to do this because there are no marriage laws or de facto laws that cover our situation and I am unable to immigrate there. This is a sad situation for all. We wait in hope that things will change.
William and Steven
February 10, 2012    DAVIDJMITCHELL@
rickelopez@ wrote:
One of us is a Taiwanese national and me, a Cuban-American living in Taiwan. We met in the USA and fell in love; I had two choices - give up or come to Taiwan. I chose to come to Taiwan and continue with the life we started in the States. I've come to love Taiwan as much as my birth country Cuba and my second home The United States of America. Now reading this article has given us hope that maybe in the near future we would be able to get married in Taiwan. It would be an honor to say, we've gotten married in the Island of Formosa. As of right now we continue to be engaged until either Taiwan or the USA can completely fulfill the basic right to all it's citizens - to marry the one they love. Love conquers all, happy people always succeed in all their endeavors. We continue to pursue our love, our goals, and most importantly our happiness.
I love you guys....i am taking my partner (I Scottish, he Tainanese) to Paris this year to propose...would be awesome to be able to get married here....
March 9, 2012    tomas12066@
rickelopez@ wrote:
One of us is a Taiwanese national and me, a Cuban-American living in Taiwan. We met in the USA and fell in love; I had two choices - give up or come to Taiwan. I chose to come to Taiwan and continue with the life we started in the States. I've come to love Taiwan as much as my birth country Cuba and my second home The United States of America. Now reading this article has given us hope that maybe in the near future we would be able to get married in Taiwan. It would be an honor to say, we've gotten married in the Island of Formosa. As of right now we continue to be engaged until either Taiwan or the USA can completely fulfill the basic right to all it's citizens - to marry the one they love. Love conquers all, happy people always succeed in all their endeavors. We continue to pursue our love, our goals, and most importantly our happiness.
@rickelopez, I am an American citizen too. I am in love with a man in the Philippines. I have looked for employment in the Philippines but it is very difficult. I recently applied to an English school in Taipei and hope I will be able to move to Taiwan this year so I am at least in the same continent as my love. Just wanted to let know there is one more who might be with you in the struggle in Taiwan. Take care ...y buena suerte en la lucha para los derechos de la igualdad.
March 12, 2012    Leiduowen@
As for how far the minority rights should be granted there will always be a great deal of controversy. Even in the democratic Athens, Socrates was sentenced to death for corrupting the youth by - among the others - sleeping with them. Mr. Ma's claim should be seen in the light of his political ambitions; I personally agree with Allen Ginsberg (who provided a multi-faceted analysis of homosexuality as a psychological and cultural phenomenon) that there is a deal of homosexuality in each person. For some reason, however, the percentage of gays in Taiwan, esp. Taipei, seems to be higher than in other places. Does this entail them to require more rights, though, at the expense of non-gays? I am pro-life so I would like to see more pro-reproduction oriented action related to affordable housing, maternity leave and mother employment, and children-raising benefits, rather than flashing the rainbow flags and gay couples demanding the right to marry and raise kids. The fact that matters is that Taiwan is dying out, so a great deal of resolute and sustained action is desperately needed here.
July 3, 2012    angela_paststay@
I do think Taiwan might be first liberal territory in Asia for LGBT rights. But I also have to say this big political ambition and movement might be influenced by People's Republic of China. When the even more sensitive topic is still ongoing, ROC would be too reckless not taking into consideration of mainland China's position on this. Therefore, over all, it would still come very, very slowly.
July 3, 2012    major_bob1@
I agree with "Leiduowen". Nothing against the small gay population, but the aging of Taiwan and negative birth rates are a much larger problem and one that should be addressed first. I'm sorry, but the truth is gay couples do not produce children (the historical basis for the institution of marriage) and what Taiwan needs is more children!
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