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September 20, 2017

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Decision on same-sex marriage bill on hold amid dispute

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- A bill that would make Taiwan the first Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage is rolling through the legislative system, but the push to approve necessary proposals has become mired in dispute and amendments will likely have to wait until next April at the earliest to be finalized.

The ruling Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) legislative caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) said Tuesday that all proposed bills for amending the Civil Code are scheduled for review on Dec. 26.

DPP Legislator Yu Mei-nu (尤美女) said lawmakers had reached a consensus for proposed versions of the bill to be reviewed and passed on to the next legislative process — the committee stage — within the same week.

But even if the bill goes on to the committee stage for its first reading straight after the review, the controversial bill will likely remain stuck in limbo and fail to make it through a third reading by the end of the current legislative session.

"Marriage equality is a contentious issue that has divided society. I hope people with opposing views may take this time to reflect. Only this way can people begin to truly communicate again," Yu said.

The debate surrounding same-sex marriage has recently boiled down to the question of how to make it happen.

Amendments currently under consideration include one proposed by Yu, one by the New Power Party (NPP) and another by opposition Kuomintang (KMT) Legislator Hsu Yu-jen (許毓仁) — all versions seek to legalize same-sex marriage and allow gay married couples to adopt children.

Yu said lawmakers still have the chance offer up new versions of the bill before the scheduled review date — pointing to calls for formulating a special act to legalize same-sex marriage rather than revising the Civil Code.

The idea of introducing the special statute has drawn outrage from local LGBT activist groups, such as the Taiwan Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership, which said enacting a new law runs counter to the spirit of marriage equality, calling separation itself a legal endorsement of discrimination.

"We want equal rights, not a special law," read placards held by demonstrators as they took to the streets near the Legislative Yuan on Monday. Around 10,000 protesters gathered along Qingdao East Road that day as a public hearing on the bill was underway.

According to the Central News Agency (CNA), top DPP lawmaker Ker Chien-ming argued against labelling special acts as discriminatory.

"The Physicians Act (醫師法) is also a set of laws separated from the Civil Code. Does that mean it is discriminates against doctors? Legislation should be more detailed and make laws that are feasible, practical. An undoable law will only cause more controversy," Ker said.

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