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December, 4, 2016

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Thousands stage marriage equality sit-in

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- More than 10,000 same-sex marriage advocates held a sit-in outside the Legislature on Monday, the day of the last public hearing before a legislative committee proceeds with the second reading of a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage.

Supporters waved rainbow flags and held banners reading "no discount on human rights," and "special treatment is discrimination," as they staged a peaceful sit-in outside the Legislative Yuan, urging marriage equality.

Inside the Legislative Yuan, experts, civic groups and legislators debated whether the legalization of same-sex marriage would benefit society.

At the core of the debate is whether the protection of same-sex couples' human rights could go as far as an amendment to the nation's fundamental law.

Opponents argued that instead of amending the Civil Code, a special partnership act could guarantee same-sex couples spousal rights equivalent to those entitled to heterosexual couples by law.

Same-sex marriage advocates argued that "special treatment itself is discrimination" and that the partnership act currently proposed by the Justice Ministry does not include parental rights.

Popular Taiwanese singer Deserts Chang (張懸) attended the hearing in the afternoon, urging that "while it may be difficult for the law to alter people's prejudices, the law should never be used to justify those biases."

Advocates Address Concerns

"Taiwan's aging society already suffers a declining birth rate, and the state could be encouraging homosexuality by legalizing same-sex marriage," Hsu Shan-jing (徐山靜), medical consultant at Chiayi Christian Hospital said on Monday.

"And that would further worsen the situation because same-sex couples cannot produce children," Hsu said.

Jennifer Lu (呂欣潔), a senior researcher at the Taiwan LGBT Hotline Association and a social media celebrity, responded to the argument with a simple question: "Does society really expect same-sex couples to become heterosexual and produce children because the law denies their right to marry?"

Professor at National Chengchi University's Graduate Institute of Technology, Innovation and Intellectual Property Management Hsu Mu-yen (許牧彥), who is also a priest, claimed, "statistics have showed that sexual intercourse between two males is the main cause of the spread of AIDS in the nation, which has made the top 10 causes of death among Taiwanese teenagers."

The Health and Welfare Ministry issued a statement on Monday morning asserting, "connecting AIDS with sexual intercourse between two males is discrimination against AIDS patients, and the main cause of the rise of AIDS cases in the country is unsafe sex."

The hearing came after a legislative committee was called to an immediate halt last Monday when Kuomintang legislators boycotted the meeting, demanding that the committee must not proceed unless public hearings were held.

The committee was charged with deliberating on amendments to the Civil Code drafted by the KMT, Democratic Progressive Party and the New Power Party.

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