Three court rulings allow transnational same-sex couples to register marriage in Taiwan
The transnational lesbian couple Xiao C (from Taiwan) and Mei-ping (from Singapore), who won their court case in 2021 to legally marry, registered their marriage today(1/26) at the Songshan District Household Registration Office and were accompanied by the Taiwan Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership Rights (TAPCPR) and several other transnational same-sex couples. This was the third legally registered transnational same-sex marriage based on a court ruling since the legalization of same-sex marriage in Taiwan in 2019.
Mei-ping and Xiao C are a lesbian couple who were married in Australia in 2018 and are raising a daughter together. In 2019, Mei-ping and Xiao C decided that they would live and raise their daughter together in Taiwan and wanted to legally register their marriage with Taiwan’s Household Registration Office. However, the illegal and unconstitutional administrative orders issued by the Ministry of Interior have resulted in the rejection of Mei-ping and Xiao C’s marriage registration. They were forced to file an appeal for administrative relief. It was not until November 25, 2021 that the couple received the ruling from the Taipei High Administrative Court favoring their appeal. The verdict was rendered final on December 28, 2021 as the Songshan District Household Registration Office, the defendant in this case, did not appeal the ruling.
The TAPCPR attorney Pan Tien-ching (潘天慶) explained that the reasons behind the court ruling in this case were different from the previous two cases. In this case, the court ruled that the lawmakers did not authorize the Ministry of Interior and the Songshan District Household Registration Office with the right to conduct a substantive examination on the clauses of the formation and effectiveness of the marriage of the parties (including the governing laws of transnational marriages) after summarizing the revision history of marriage laws and legal statues. The household registration offices should register marriages as long as the marriage registration documents provided by the requesters are complete and authentic.
Victoria Hsu (許秀雯), the lead attorney of TAPCPR, stressed that this was the third court ruling favoring the registration of transnational same-sex marriages. The administrative agencies need to face the fact that the existing interpretation of governing laws (the ‘administrative order’) has been rejected by the court three times for being illegal and not applicable. The TAPCPR urged both the Ministry of Interior and local household registration offices to revisit the existing laws and to not insist on only allowing marriage registrations from same-sex couples where both parties hail from a country that has legalized same-sex marriage.
The Executive Yuan failed to provide draft amendments to Article 46 of the Act Governing the Choice of Law in Civil Matters Involving Foreign Elements (涉外民事法律適用法) to the Legislative Yuan (Taiwan’s parliament) and seemed indifferent to the petition coming in the form of thousands of letters from transnational same-sex couples over the past three years. Victoria Hsu, who also represents nearly ten transnational same-sex couples for judicial remedy of similar cases, accused the Ministry of Interior of inaction on the court rulings while leaving local household registration offices to shoulder all the burden. As a result, transnational same-sex couples and local household registration offices have only been able to resort to litigation. The TAPCPR urged the Ministry of Interior to take responsibility and resolve the issue while local household registration offices should refuse to abide by unconstitutional and illegal administrative orders and allow transnational same-sex couples with proper documentation to register their marriages in Taiwan.
Chien Chih-chieh (簡至潔), TAPCPR Secretary-General, urged the administration to take immediate action and said that everyone in the system should not forget that it is the government’s inactions that has resulted in the separation of transnational same-sex couples during the festive time of Lunar New Year. The legal solution is already available and simply requires the administration’s action to move the case forward.
After successfully registering their marriage, Mei-ping and Xiao C said that they felt much relieved after finally seeing their partner’s name on their ID card. However, they still feel the burden on their shoulders when thinking about more than four hundred transnational same-sex couples who are still struggling and cannot unite with their loved ones in Taiwan. They will continue the fight for marriage equality for all.
Mei-ping and Xiao C are the third transnational same-sex couple in Taiwan who have received a court ruling allowing them to legally register their marriage. Before this case, two other cases challenged the restrictions on such marriage registration and won. The two cases were Chi Chia-wei (祁家威, a Taiwanese and Malaysian couple) and the case of Ting Tse-yan (丁則言) and his partner, Guzifer Leong (梁展輝), from Macau. The Judicial Yuan (Taiwan’s highest judicial organ) also proposed draft amendments to Article 46 of the Act Governing the Choice of Law in Civil Matters Involving Foreign Elements (涉外民事法律適用法) to allow Taiwanese to marry foreigners from countries where same-sex unions are not legally recognized. Nevertheless, the draft amendments were sent to the Executive Yuan (Taiwan’s cabinet) over a year ago and yet the amendments are still pending the Legislative Yuan’s review.