Background

Support for the LGBTQ community in Taiwan has been increasing steadily over the past several years, leading it to become the first country in Asia to legalize same sex marriage on May 24, 2019. Since the movement emerged, Taiwan has been considered one of the most LGBTQ friendly nations in Asia. The largest Pride Parade in Asia is now held annually in Taipei, with the first held in 2003.

As one of the most liberal countries in Asia, Taiwan’s modern developments can be credited to its strong history of activism and politically active youth. This was seen in the 1990 Wild Lily Student Movement for democracy, the 2014 Sunflower Movement to oppose a proposed free trade agreement with China, and the 2016 election win for the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). Such movements helped stimulate Taiwan’s LGBTQ mobilization.

Though there has never been formal punishment for identifying as LGBTQ+, there were detrimental consequences for partners who were not legally married. They could not obtain the same insurance benefits as heterosexual partners, and they did not have a legal familial connection, which prevented them from making medical decisions for hospitalized loved ones. Even with the new bill, Taiwanese LGBTQ are still not protected by law against hate crimes, and are restricted in adoption rights and blood donation.

Video: Marriage equality is not just about marriage

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How is the LGBTQ Community perceived in Taiwan?

Taiwanese people have always leaned into supporting equal human rights, and the Taiwanese LGBTQ community suffers fewer hate crimes compared to their counterparts in the USA. However, there are still people that argue against homosexuality, as it is not supported by their religion(s), and therefore should not be supported by the government. Some also fear allowing their children to explore their sexuality, as well as not being able to pass down the family name, which is traditionally of high priority.

Taiwan’s Pride Parades

The first pride parade was held on November 1, 2003 in Taipei, welcoming over 20,000 participants. This event was given 70,000 NT (~2378.65 USD) in government funding support. Former president, Ma Ying-Jeou, who was Taipei’s mayor at the time, gave a speech at the end of the parade saying that as an international city, Taipei should respect individuals of all groups and cultures. This parade became a yearly tradition and inspired similar events in Hong Kong.

Through the next several years, Taiwan Pride began garnering widespread attention and even attracted a significant amount of international participation. Shortly after the 2015 pride parade, presidential candidate Tsai Ing-Wen publicly voiced her support for the LGBTQ community. The ever-growing event continued expanding with 120,000 participants in 2017, 137,000 in 2018, and 200,000 in 2019. With the Covid-19 pandemic defining 2020, pride month parades around the world had to be canceled, except Taiwan’s. Taiwan was able to march for the world on June 28, 2020 due to their commendable response to the coronavirus, and is planning for the more official 2020 Formosa Pride while carefully monitoring the pandemic.

Politicians on LGBTQ Rights

Ma ying jeou LGBTQ
Ma Ying-Jeou at a LGBT civil rights movement event
  • 1999: Mayor Ma Ying-Jeou allocated USD $1 million for gay rights, becoming the first politician to support gay rights. However, he did not push for legislation because he was afraid of being accused as gay.
  • 2002: President Chen Shui-bian invited gay rights activist, Nan Hunter, and human rights lawyer, Michael Bronski to a meeting in the presidential office to discuss possible legislation.
  • 2003: Vice-President Annette Lu drafted a basic human rights law that included an article on same-sex marriage and adoption rights for gay couples that ultimately was not passed.
  • 2016: Current President Tsai Ing-Wen posted a video of herself openly supporting gay marriage.

Legislation

Three (3) Bills have been proposed by the Taiwan Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership Rights.

family
  1. Marriage Equality Bill
    • Changes definition of marriage to not be limited to just one man and one woman
    • Changes specific words in family law to not be gender specific
      • Husband and wife → Spouse
      • Father and Mother → Parents
      • Man and Woman → Both parties
    • It has been strongly opposed and strongly supported because of these definition changes
    • Currently going through second read and has been pushed the furthest in the legislative branch
  2. Same-Sex Partnership Bill
    • Discusses what a civil union between two individuals is
    • Sets up a special law for partnerships between two people regardless of gender or sexuality
    • It is also an anti-discriminatory law (regards inheritance, adoption, status, etc.)
    • A similar law was adopted by Germany in 2005
  3. Family Dependent Bill
    • Covers which family rights are given regarding:
      • Visitation rights
      • Consent forms
    • Doesn’t cover inheritance or adoption
    • Two or more people can register as a family

Legal Proceedings in Taiwan regarding the LGBTQ Community

Where the current status stands in Legislation:

  • Marriage Equality Act must pass Third Read by the end of April or early May
    • After the election of new Legislative Yuan members, unfinished processing has to start all over again if not passed by then.
  • Revisions of the Family Law are undergoing a Constitution clarification by Grand Judges
  • President Tsai has engaged in talks from supporters and protesters of the Marriage Equality Act

2017 – May 24

  • Taiwan’s Constitutional Court rules that the ban of same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, and gives a two (2) year deadline for legislative change

2016 – December 26

  • Committee of Justice, Legislative Yuan reviewed and sent drafts to Legislative Yuan Committee for negotiations among political parties:
    • A revision of current Family Law
    • Proposal of adding one chapter on the same sex marriage to the current Family Law
    • A suggestion that any further or other proposals on the issue of same sex marriage be presented to the Legislative Yuan for discussion
  • Marriage Equality Bill passes with revisions which proposes redefine marriage from “Man and Woman” to non-binary terms

2013

  • Marriage Equality bill passes first read and is then sent to Committee of Justice but nothing more happens until 2016 election

2012

  • Alliance for the Partners’ Rights proposes “Multiple Family Structure Bill
  • Contained all three drafts, but required legislator to propose to Legislative Yuan

2004

  • Enforced gender equality in schools
  • “To promote substantive gender equality, eliminate gender discrimination, uphold human dignity, and improve and establish education resources and environment of gender equality.”
  • Taught about non-traditional gender identification and orientation, however this brought up the “nature vs. nurture” argument for gender identification and orientation

Additional Articles

Taiwan could be first in Asia to back gay marriage

Taiwan’s push to legalise same-sex marriage – BBC News

A progressive history of gay rights in Taiwan

Attitudes Toward Homosexuality and Same-Sex Marriage in Taiwan: It’s More Complex than You Think

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