Thousands protest same-sex marriage bills in Taiwan

by Angela Lu/WORLD News Service, posted Monday, November 21, 2016 (one year ago)

TAIWAN (BP) -- Thousands of demonstrators filled the streets in front of the Legislative Yuan on Nov. 17 to protest a set of bills that would make Taiwan the first Asian government to recognize same-sex marriage. By the end of the evening, the protesters had gained a victory: The legislature decided to allow two public hearings before voting on the law.

Wearing white shirts and carrying signs that read, "Let the people decide on marriage and family," and, "Stand up for the happiness of the next generation," the protesters -- including families with young children -- showed up at 7 a.m. to express their dismay that legislators were pushing the law through without a public hearing or allowing the people a chance to participate. The protest remained mostly peaceful, with demonstrators singing, giving impassioned speeches, and praying. Yet at 3 p.m., as legislators still refused to hold a public hearing on the issue, protesters stormed the gate surrounding the Legislative Yuan. About 60 people were able to get in and hold a sit-in outside the assembly hall before police blocked off the gate.

Tens of thousands of people turned out in October for a gay-pride parade in the streets of Taipei. The legalization of same-sex marriage has been expected ever since the pro-lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender Democratic Progress Party (DPP) took control of the parliament earlier this year. President Tsai Ing-wen has also been vocal in her support of gay marriage. In contrast, the previous ruling Kuomintang party held a more traditional Confucian view of the family, which clearly states marriage is between a man and a woman.

Led by DPP member Yu Mei-nu, legislators drafted three bills to legalize same-sex marriage and offer couples welfare benefits, joint property rights, and shared custody of children, according to the Los Angeles Times. The proposed laws respond to complaints by same-sex couples who married and had children through surrogacy overseas, but cannot have legal custody of the children in Taiwan.

The rally, organized by the Alliance for the Happiness of Future Generations, included protesters from all over the island of Taiwan, most of them Christians and some Buddhists who oppose same-sex marriage for religious reasons. Christians make up only about 5 percent of Taiwan's population, yet in the past have come out in force to oppose same-sex marriage laws. In November 2013, tens of thousands of Christians protested a similar law revision that would have changed the terms "man and woman" to "two parties" and "father and mother" to "parents."

Some protesters said they attended the event because they feared their children would be taught in their schools that homosexuality was normal. Others called for the removal of Yu, who drafted the bill, claiming she did not represent them. David Tseng, spokesman for the rally, said the group supports equal rights for same-sex partners, but not the redefinition of marriage.

"We are different from the West," Tseng told Hong Kong's South China Morning Post. "In Eastern culture, we place great importance on filial piety to one's father and mother. This is a virtue we must keep."

Angela Lu writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine (www.worldmag.com) based in Asheville, N.C. Used by permission.
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