Marriage equality is here to stay in Taiwan, even in the face of a national referendum in which voters overwhelmingly rejected same-sex unions.
In a speech delivered to the Legislative Yuan on Thursday, Secretary-General Tai-lang Lu claimed the Constitutional Court’s May 2017 ruling on marriage equality “cannot be touched.” Taiwan’s top court paved the way for the legal recognition of same-sex marriages in a written opinion claiming that denying these couples full marriage rights its unconstitutional.
Judges gave the legislature two years to enact a freedom to marry law or marriage equality would automatically become legal.
Tai-lang Lu, a representative of the Judicial Yuan, claimed nothing has changed following Taiwan’s contentious Nov. 24 plebiscite. Despite polls showing Taiwanese have long supported same-sex unions, 70 percent of voters claimed the Civil Code should continue to define marriage as between a man and a woman.
According to Taiwan News, the Secretary-General confirmed what INTO has previously reported: “interpretations made by the Constitutional Court hold the highest rule of law and cannot be defeated by referendums.”
In the meeting with the Legislature’s Judiciary and Organic Laws committee, Lu said the only question that remains is how lawmakers will respond.
“The Legislative Yuan will therefore only be able to decide how to guarantee [rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitutional Court], via amending the Civil Code or establishing a new law,” the publication reported. “How they are guaranteed will be decided in accordance with the referendum results.”
Legislators are required to act upon the referendum results by Feb. 24.
Kolas Yotaka, a spokesperson for the Executive Yuan, told the news channel Focus Taiwan that the federal government “will draw up a draft for a separate law in three months… send it to the Legislative Yuan.”
Although 58 percent of voters supported offering a lower form of relationship recognition to same-sex couples (i.e., domestic partnerships), the executive branch claimed that any legislation put forward would “extend equal marriage rights” to same-sex couples in Taiwan.
In total, voters sounded off on five ballot measures: three in support of LGBTQ rights, and two in favor of equality. All three anti-LGBTQ proposals passed, and the pro-equality measures failed.
One concerned whether students should be taught about LGBTQ issues in schools.
Jason Hsu, a representative in the Legislative Yuan, previously told INTO he would not support a civil unions bill, saying it was tantamount to “discrimination.”
“We should not allow a special law to be sent to our committee for review,” the Kuomintang (KMT) lawmaker said days before the vote. “I will do everything I can to tear down that committee. I will fucking block it because it’s not right.”
What remains to be seen is whether the legislature can refuse to put forward a bill by the three-month deadline.
If lawmakers ignore the referendum vote, same-sex couples will be able to marry on May 29, 2019—two years after the Constitutional Court decision. That would make the Taiwan the largest municipality in Asia to legalize marriage equality.