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Group established in Taipei to lobby for greater LGBT rights

TAIPEI -- A group was established in Taipei Wednesday to lobby for greater lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights in Taiwan, especially the passage of a same-sex marriage bill that is currently in the legislative process.

The Lobby Alliance for LGBT Human Rights aims to legalize gay marriage, support gay-friendly companies and encourage more gay people to come out with courage and dignity, according to the alliance.

To apply more pressure on lawmakers and politicians, the alliance has set up a website (www.pridewatch.tw) that reveals the stances on gay marriage adopted by each lawmaker and mayoral candidate of Taiwan's five special municipalities, said Ann-Jiun Wang, chief convener of the alliance and chief editor of the lesbian lifestyle magazine LEZS.

Wang, granddaughter of the founder of United Daily News Group, a leading local newspaper, publicly came out as a lesbian at the Legislative Yuan in February, urging lawmakers to pass a draft bill that would legalize same-sex marriage and allow married gay couples to adopt children.

Gay marriage has been a major topic of discussion since the draft bill cleared the first reading in the Legislative Yuan in October last year and was sent to the Legislature's Judiciary and Organic Laws and Statutes Committee for review.

Since then, the draft bill has been at a standstill, largely due to religious opposition.

“Same-sex marriage is a human rights problem, not an issue of welfare or privilege,” said Gina Chen, spokeswoman for the alliance.

She said her group hopes to soon meet with ruling Kuomintang legislators Lu Hsueh-chang and Liao Cheng-ching, who head the committee for this legislative session and who have the power to put the bill on the committee's agenda.

Currently, over 30 of all 112 lawmakers have voiced support for the draft bill, and around 20 oppose it, while over half have not disclosed their positions, said Cindy Su, the group's chief information officer.

Su believes many lawmakers are opposed to the draft bill due to a lack of understanding of the gay community and said she is hopeful that their positions will change once there have been more face-to-face conversations.

In addition to lobbying politicians and lawmakers, Su said they will also visit company heads to seek support and will encourage more prominent figures in the business, entertainment and cultural sectors to come out.

If it passes a third reading, the bill will change all legal references to marriage to be gender-neutral, with terms like “husband” and “wife” becoming “spouse.”

It will leave the rights and obligations of spouses in marriage unchanged.

Last year, tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Taipei in protest against the draft bill.

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