Taiwan News / By Abraham Gerber / Staff reporter
Gay marriage advocates yesterday protested the registration rules of the Taipei United Marriage Ceremony event, as the city moved to establish a new, separate ceremony open to gay couples.
“Homosexuals desiring to marry should not be viewed as something to be quarantined and given ‘special treatment’ — they should be treated as members of society and as part of everyday life,” Taiwan Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership Rights (TAPCPR) chief executive officer and attorney Victoria Hsu (許秀雯) said.
Activists accompanied a lesbian couple who submitted registration forms for this year’s Taipei United Marriage Ceremony.
Taipei Department of Civil Affairs Commissioner Lan Shih-tsung (藍世聰), whose department is responsible for organizing the ceremony, yesterday reiterated that this year’s United Marriage ceremonies would not be open to gay couples because of concerns over conflicts with the law.
The Civil Code currently defines “marriage” as being between a man and a woman.
While the department said it hoped that homosexual couples could be allowed to participate in the ceremony and would “move in that direction,” there is currently no timeline for revising registration rules, he said.
Current city plans call on the government’s new Sexual Equality Office, which reports directly to the mayor’s office, to instead organize an alternative “free marriage” ceremony open to both homosexual and non-homosexual couples. This year is to be the first time such a ceremony has been sponsored by the city government.
“The United Marriage Ceremony is intended as a ‘blessing’ by the city government to city residents,” TAPCPR secretary-general Chien Chih-chieh (簡至潔) said. “Because marriage only legally takes effect after registration, the United Marriage Ceremony is just a symbolic ceremony.”
She said revising registration rules is within the purview of the city government.
Department of Welfare Commissioner Hsu Li-min (許立民), who also heads the Sexual Equality Office, said the city government’s main concern in holding a separate ceremony open to homosexual couples was current social attitudes, rather than legal concerns. Many heterosexual couples might be unwilling to participate in a United Marriage ceremony with homosexual couples, he said, adding that the city government hoped to gradually lead and change public opinion through the event.
Alliance of Religious Groups for the Love of Families Taiwan secretary-general Chang Shou-yi (張守一) said the city’s government decision to hold the ceremony would violate the spirit of the Civil Code. He said it was inappropriate for the government to try to “lead” public opinion on sexual behavior.