Taiwan’s same-sex marriage ruling stirs discussion in China

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By Laura Zhang

In a much anticipated decision, Taiwan’s constitutional court ruled in favour of same-sex marriage on Wednesday (24 May, 2017).

The court decided that the existing laws essentially violated the basic rights of expression and freedom to love. The court said legislators have a maximum of two years to amend the laws. The ruling said if the law is not amended by then, same-sex marriage would be legal in the country.

Both tears of joy and anger were shed at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei. Crowds of supporters gathered outside the court house, hugged each other and cried in elation at the court’s ruling.

However, opponents were also there to make their views heard.

President Tsai Ing-wen wrote on her Facebook, “The result of the constitutional ruling is not a victory or a defeat. No matter what attitude one holds on the same-sex marriage issue, this is the time when we look at all people around us as our own brothers and sisters.”

Photo: Reuters

This milestone would not have been possible without the 30-year fight by Chi Chia-wei, known in Taiwan as the “gay rights crusader”. He had filed a law suit about 2 years ago, pushing Taiwan to review marriage equality. The lawsuit had set the tipping point of what happened today.

Chi, who had come out as gay in 1986, spent 162 days in prison before a judge released him. Since then he has been a constant force fighting for the LGBT community there to be recognized by society and the law.

Chi Chia-wei [left] holding hand with a supporter outside the court. PHOTO: TheNewsLens.com
This ruling was met with mixed reaction in Taiwan and other parts of the world.

“What would you think if your grandchildren end up being a gay?” said an outraged opponent outside the court.

People from religious groups also generally hold conservative views based on their religious belief and values that humans are created to reproduce biologically. Traditional Chinese values also place high emphasis on marriage as the essential social institution to carry on family lines.

However, not all religious people are opponents.

A controversial Bhuddist master Shi Zhao-hui said, “Buddhism philosophy views lust as human instincts. Neither marriage is holy, nor homosexuals are sinful.” She also pointed out that, “family should not be formed solely for reproduction.”

“Such concept will stigmatise unfertilized couples as well,” she said.

She also cautioned all religious groups  not to repeat “medieval witch hunt”.

“Taiwan should not become a ‘witch hunt’ society.”

On Weibo, a popular online site in China, some asked about migrating to Taiwan. “I want to know it for my boyfriend and I,” said one of the comments.

At Zhihu, another popular  portal, some said “the resistance [to homosexuality] does not come from the law, but their own families and friends.”

“As Chinese, we feel that it is impossible to eradicate the traditional thinking of ‘marriage for reproduction’ in most families,” said one commenter. “Therefore, there is still a long way to go, as the legalization will not remove the prejudice overnight.”

Many wondered if China would be affected by the Taiwanese court’s decision. Many mainland netizens on Weibo didn’t feel it would.

An anonymous user on Zhihu said, “Such changes in constitutional law needs influential interest groups, strong sense of individualism, more liberal and educated citizens. China is not only socially unready, as many are holding the prejudices against homosexuals, but most importantly, China’s interest groups and activists also don’t have a say when it comes to amendment of laws. Lastly, individuals don’t have a strong sense of democracy and rights to begin with.”