Taiwan could make history by being the first East Asian country to allow same-sex marriage for its citizens if a proposal to legalize its practice is passed into law.
According to Christie Chen of Taiwan's Central News Agency, or CNA, a legislative committee on Monday engaged in heated debate over the same-sex marriage bill and revise Taiwan's Civil Code. The Ministry of Justice presented a report that advocated for a measured approach that promoted the rights of gay couples, arguing that a social consensus still had to be reached first.
"The ministry believes that this issue is related to our national condition and social and ethical framework," the report said. "At present, there are still many disagreements and disputes in our society. It is really not appropriate for us to revise the Civil Code hastily."
Deputy Justice Minister Chen Ming-tang, in a presentation of the report, argued that there are "too many disputes" to allow a change to the marriage laws in the Civil Code. According to Chen, the deputy minister wanted to implement the change in a gradual manner, focusing on discussions regarding same-sex couples' medical, taxation and other rights.
"Overall, (a change to) marriage laws should follow behind," Ming-tang said.
In a session of the Judiciary and Organic Laws and Statutes Committee, Opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmaker Cheng Li-chiun argued that Taiwan's legislature was responsible for making changes to discriminatory or unfair laws. According to another CNA article, Li-chiun was one of the lawmakers who proposed the draft bill to legalize same-sex marriage.
"No one deserves to be deprived of their rights at birth to be on an equal footing with others just because of their psychological or biological differences," Li-chiun said. "If we cannot break the cycle of discrimination, then everyone could become a victim of discrimination because of their respective differences."
As in many other countries around the world, Taiwan only recognizes marriage between a man and a woman. According to CNA, the proposed amendment to the Civil Code would include changing the terms "man and woman," "husband and wife" and "father and mother" to the gender-neutral "two parties," "spouses" and "parents" respectively.
CNA reported that the proposed amendment, in addition to legalizing same-sex marriage, would allow married gay couples to adopt children. The proposed bill cleared a first reading in the Legislative Yuan last year, a legal procedure where it was only announced and later sent to the relevant committee for discussion.
Opposition from religious groups, including members of the Taiwan Religious Groups Alliance for the Family, has kept the bill shelved until now. CNA noted that in Taiwan's government, bills must pass three readings in the legislature before the president can promulgate them.