By Grace Wu, Special to The China Post
TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The Taipei City Government Department of Civil Affairs yesterday stated its decision to petition to the Constitutional Court to make a decision about whether the Constitution forbids the government from restricting marriage rights from same-sex couples and to seek a decision that would require the government to legalize same-sex marriage.
Countries all over the world have started to legalize same-sex marriage, Civil Affairs officials said, citing a gradual change in values in the past years. For example, the United States Supreme Court recently ruled that same-sex marriage is a legal right throughout the U.S. and is under the protection of the U.S. Constitution.
However, when asked whether they supported the right of same-sex couples to marry during their confirmation hearings before the Legislative Yuan, four of the current grand justices of the Constitutional Court said they could not support such a right.
In a democratic country, the guarantee of civil liberty is a major issue that governmental bodies must be aware of, but since the Constitutional Court has yet to hand down a decision regarding same-sex marriage, the Civil Affairs department has decided to appeal to the court.
It is estimated that the documents supporting the appeal will be delivered to the Ministry of the Interior (內政部) next week.
According to local media source New Talk, the Taipei City Civil Affairs department began registering gay couples on June 17 this year, though registering does not bestow same-sex couples in Taipei with the same rights as opposite-sex couples. However, registered same-sex couples receive a certificate of civil partnership, which identifies them as relatives.
The certificate is currently recognized by the Ministry of Health and Welfare based on the Medical Care Act (醫療法), which recognizes relationships between same-sex couples in a limited way. It will assist hospitals to determine same-sex couples' relations when signing medical consent and visitation papers.
Victoria Hsu (許秀雯), director of the Taiwan Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership Rights (TAPCPR, 台灣伴侶權益推動聯盟) said that implementation of same-sex couples' rights under the Medical Care Act will also face many obstacles.
For Taipei City Government, seeking a Constitutional Court decision that same-sex marriage is a constitutional right is the next step in the battle for LGBT rights, Hsu said.