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July 24, 2017

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Supreme Court may rule on gay-marriage

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- A Taiwan High Court held off on a gay-marriage verdict yesterday, saying that it may send the case to Taiwan's top court.

The Taipei High Administrative Court (台北高等行政法院) was expected to rule yesterday on a landmark case of two Taiwanese men, Nelson Chen (陳敬學) and Kao Chih-wei (高治瑋), who are seeking a legal marriage.

The High Court announced yesterday that it has not reached a verdict, but that the case could be handed to the Council of Grand Justices, a 15-justice body that serves as Taiwan's constitutional court.

"We are preparing to consider seeking a constitutional interpretation," said an official on Thursday.

A High Court hearing scheduled for Jan. 15 will determine whether the case goes to the top court, according to Liu Chi-wei (劉繼蔚), one of the couple's two attorneys.

Liu said that Thursday's result was "within our expectations." During his defense of the couple's marriage rights he had cited the Constitution's fundamental principles of equality, said Liu.

Optimistic

Taiwan LGBT Family Rights Advocacy (性別人權協會) said yesterday that it is optimistic about future developments.

Ten years ago, the High Court very likely would have ruled against the couple, said Shawn Wu (王蘋持), secretary-general of the advocacy group.

Since then, there have been changes. The legislature will open a gay-rights public hearing next Wednesday, and Taiwan's High Court has adopted an "open attitude," said Wu.

Thursday's result shows that the justices are struggling with the gay marriage question and are unwilling to take on perceived risks, she said.

Huang Kuo-cheng (黃國城), the couple's second attorney, said that obtaining a constitutional interpretation by the Council of Grand Justices "may not be a bad thing."

But even if the court rules in favor of the couple, they still face many difficulties in the future, as there are more than 500 regulations pertaining to married couples' rights and obligations, Huang said.

The couple did not appear in court on Thursday.

Chen, one of the partners, told reporters later that the judiciary cannot keep LBGT persons from the pursuit of happiness.

Regardless of whether their marriage is legally recognized, happiness between companions (同伴幸福) has long been "daily compulsory homework" for him and his partner, Chen said.

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