Prepared by TAPCPR 2013/9/6
Please support the Taiwan Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership Rights (TAPCPR) and their bill to amend Taiwan's marriage law Same-sex marriage is being legalized all around the world, Taiwan should not leave its people behind.
In May of last year, America's President Obama publicly announced that he supports same-sex marriage, and the newly elected French president François Hollande also declared that, in keeping with his campaign promises, France would legalize same-sex marriage in 2013 and he did. Following Holland's pioneering lead in 2001, in July of this year the United Kindom (in England and Wales) became the 16th nation in the world to legalize same-sex marriage. In Asia, Vietnam's Ministry of Justice initiated a legislative amendment last August to extend legal protections to same-sex marriages. And Tailand could legalize same-sex partnership system. Besides same-sex marriage, there are around thirty nations worldwide that legally recognize civil unions, which grant legal protections to both same-sex and / or opposite-sex couples.
How can a modern, progressive nation tolerate the meaningless suffering of its people?
For too long, Taiwan has deprived same-sex couples and “ families of diversity” of legal recognition of their relationships. This absence of recognition has led to substantive harms of their rights and interests. It has put hospital visitation rights into question for some, who, while still mourning the death of their deceased partners, may be forced into lawsuits with the relatives of their loved one over property. The households of couples with children also face social and economic hardships when the law does not recognize the parental rights of both partners. These many problems can be ended with legal recognition of these couples' relationships, but Taiwan's prolonged postponement of a legislative solution subjects these families to unending obstacles.
The Draft Revisions to the Civil Code for the Recognition of Families of Diversity Proposed by the Taiwan Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership Rights (TAPCPR)
Beginning in 2009, TAPCPR began to collect information on the viewpoints and strategies of NGOs as well as the legislative process for every nation that had passed marriage equality legislation and surveys of public response after passage. Finally, in July 2012 we released Taiwan's first civil society initiative of Draft Revision for the Recognition of Families of Diversity. The amendment includes provisions for civil partnerships, same-sex marriage, multiple-person families, and the adoption of children. It would allow those of different genders, sexual orientations, gender identities, and even those whose relationships are not based on romantic relations, to legally marry or gain recognition as couples or multi-person families according to their own definition for happiness.
Meeting the Needs of Families of Diversity : Three Types of Unions
All of TAPCPR's Draft Revisions to the Civil Code have been drafted with the ideals of "Freedom to Love and Equality for all Families" at their core. Besides legalizing same-sex marriage, we hope to amend Taiwan's long past of prejudice and discrimination against gays and lesbians while getting people to also think about recognition of households built around non-romantic relationships. The amendment furthermore makes the legal definition and scope of kinship more flexible, granting new options to those Taiwanese whose households may not be built around a marriage.
The following are more detailed explanations of each type of union for which the amendment seeks to gain legal recognition.
The Legalization of Same-Sex Marriage
The legal aim for same-sex marriage is to make all provisions regarding sex in the Civil Code governing marriage and family gender-neutral (for example, to revise "husband and wife" to "spouse," and "mother and father" to "both parents"). This could be seen as solely for the purpose of legalizing same-sex marriage, but the measure's more profound implication is that it removes considerations of gender as a condition for marriage. It allows for people of all genders to freely enter into marriage without being restricted by their physiology, sexual orientation, or society's gender norms – for example, avoiding fraught complications for a person in the process of undergoing a sex-change operation, who would otherwise need to contemplate whether their relationship should be referred to as "same-sex" or "opposite sex." Eliminating the binary references to one or the other gender in the present Civil Code would therefore help relieve the already oppressive and anxious experience of being transgendered.
The Founding of Civil Partnerships
Civil Partnerships are a means for two people of any gender or sexual orientation, whose relationship may or may not be romantic, to gain legal recognition of and protections for their status as partners. This may include people in a romantic relationships, but also friends and siblings. Because close relationships can be extremely varied, so are their expected rights and duties. Therefore, TAPCPR's drafting of the code for creating Civil Partnerships emphasizes respect for the wishes of the partners concerned. It leaves the right to decide rules for inheritance, place of residence, household chores, the raising of children, and other rights and duties up to the partners themselves -- unlike the present, wholly fixed set of laws governing marriage, which may be barely relevant to the couples they are applied to.
Unions for Multiple-Person Families
The rules respecting Unions for Multiple-Person Families have been drafted with the idea of the "Chosen Family" in mind, augmenting the definition and scope of "family" in Chapter 6 of the Civil Code. In short, it seeks to shift the concept of "family" from being strictly based upon the existence of a biological relationship to being founded on a lasting, communal relationship. Multiple-person family members may be friends or romantically involved, those related by blood or by marriage, as long as they are seen as family, expect to look after each other, and if they legally register their relationship to one another, they would be legally recognized as a family.
The Origin and Essentials of the Legislation
To End Discrimination Based on Sexuality
Taiwanese society has long excluded same-sex partners from the right to marry. Besides unjustly depriving same-sex partners of many basic rights and privileges, this legal exclusion has explicitly and implicitly propagated prejudice against LGBT persons as inferior or second-class, allowing homophobic social mores to constitute the foundation of our laws. Therefore only by amending our unequal marriage laws can we hope to truly end discrimination based on sexuality. Left alone, these laws will continue to remain the basis of further discrimination.
Affirming the Value of “Families of Diversity”
The serious discrimination against the unmarried in Taiwanese society is caused by the prevailing cultural dominance of heterosexual marriage, which has monopolized our conceptions of "family" and even "happiness," with society taking marriage status into heavy account even in measuring the worth of a person. However, marriage is only one aspect of identity, only one particular model for a family. We should refuse to allow our conceptions of family to be monopolized by heterosexist norms, and what's more, heterosexual relationships should not be the only kind of family union recognized by our country's laws.
We believe that for all people to be able to form families of their own choosing and to end discrimination against unmarried persons in Taiwan, Taiwanese people must be given options outside of marriage. Otherwise, we cannot hope to truly protect the rights of all families, nor can we lessen the oppressive burden and norms extended to all members of society to marry and conform to a single kind of family.
Strengthening Democratic Practice in Relationships Through Legal Institution Design
For an intimate relationship to be truly democratic and equal, partners must negotiate and talk things over openly. Even so, present nuptial law dictates the full scope of rights and duties for married couples in all matters from property rights, inheritance, raising children, sexual activity and even the grounds and conditions of divorce; those entering into marriage have little freedom to decide on these rules for themselves. The Civil Partnerships introduced by our Bill encourages those who are legally formalizing their relationship to consult with each other to establish rules for inheritance, raising children, distribution of household chores, residence, and other aspects of daily living. When one side feels that they have been pressured or treated unfairly, they may overcome traditional gender roles and individual inertia through open negotiation and agreement to finally achieve a relationship based on equality.
In the flexible design of civil partnerships, the national government takes a secondary position in structuring the relationship between couples. Only when it is necessary to resolve a legal dispute between partners does the government assume a decisive role (for example when a provision of the Civil Partnership agreement is very clearly unfair). Otherwise, government policy will no longer constitute the principal substance of a partnership contract. In short, the national government will only set a base standard for rights and obligations beyond which couples may further decide for themselves. For couples in civil partnerships, the government will not compel punishment for adults engaging in sexual activities that have been mutually agreed upon, nor will it mandate investigation into the reasons for ending a civil partnership (meaning that ending a civil partnership would not require a legal reason), and so the continuation of a couple's relationship will not be at the sufferance of the court, but will rest instead upon the mutual willingness of both partners. This will all encourage the development of a new form of intimate relationship wherein the government respects the initiative and autonomy of both partners, which will in turn help Taiwanese people build more democratic relationships with each other.
Taiwan Wants "Marriage Equality for All Couples"
Whenever the issue of same-sex marriage is brought up, the government and politicians unfailingly use "public consensus" as an excuse for postponing action. However, recent public opinion polls clearly show that a majority of Taiwanese actually support the right to same-sex marriage as well as legal protection for unmarried couples; only a minority have expressed opposition.
In April of 2012, the TVBS public opinion survey found that 49% of citizens support the legalization of same-sex marriage and that 29% do not support it (1141 individuals successfully surveyed, ages 20-59); in August of 2012, the China Times public opinion survey found that 56% of citizens support same-sex marriage and that 31% oppose (852 successful samples, ages 20 and above); in September of 2012, the United Daily News Group Vision Workshop’s public opinion survey found that 55% of citizens support same-sex marriage and that 37% do not support it (1084 successful samples, ages 18 and above); in April of 2013, The Academica Sinica Taiwan Social Change Survey found that in a survey conducted between July and October of 2012, 52.5% of interviewed individuals support same-sex marriage and that 30% oppose (2134 successful samples, ages 18 and above). It is obvious that, contrary to the line given by Taiwan's government and politicians, there is strong support for same-sex marriage in Taiwan. The public consensus against same-sex marriage has been an illusion constructed by a vehemently vocal minority.
Among Taiwan's younger generation, a 2011 survey by the Common Weekly showed that over 66.9% of young Taiwanese ages 12 to 17 support the legalization of gay marriage, indicating that equal rights for all genders and sexualities will be a fundamental value in future Taiwanese society. The legal community also strongly supports marriage equality: in September of 2011, TAPCPR also held a press conference releasing a petition signed by 232 lawyers in support of legislation for same-sex couples.
Besides this, TAPCPR's distribution of the "I support family diversity!" petition on September 8 of 2012 drew more than 6000 signatures in less than 60 hours; to date, the petition now boasts more than 11,1295 individual signatures and support from more than 310 organizations. Many prominent members of Taiwanese society have also openly expressed support for TAPCPR's Draft Amendment, including more than 50 pop stars (including Zhang Hui-Mei, Sandee Chan,Jolin Tsai...etc.), noted writer Chen Xue, leader of the opposition Su Tseng-chang, former presidential candidate 2012 Tsai Ing-wen, well-known parliament members, Cheng Li-chiun and Yu Mei Nu , the current mayor of Kaohsiung city, Chen Chu, among many others, demonstrating the overwhelming support and expectations that Taiwanese from all walks have for the passage of this draft amendment.
Equal rights activist Qi Jia-Wei in 1986 went to court to demand legal recognition for his marriage to his same-sex partner. Now after 27 years, contrary to public expectations, Taiwan has made strikingly little progress in legalizing same-sex marriages and other types of family unions. With the passage of our Draft Amendment, we wish to give voice to and realize long-held hopes. We hope justice in Qi Jia-Wei's case will no longer be delayed as it already has for 27 years by a "lack of public consensus." Marriage is a fundamental right for every person that cannot be justly denied, much less used to discriminate against a particular group.
TAPCPR earnestly requests your support as we push forward with our Draft Amendment to the Civil Code as we hope that "Freedom to Love, Equality for all Families" may be personally realized by everyone in a Taiwan of the not-too-distant future.