Same-sex marriage bill passes first hurdle in possibly long process

A committee in Taiwan's Legislature on Monday passed an amendment to put same-sex marriage in the country's Civil Code, signally the first step in legalizing marriage between people of the same sex.

Instead of changing Article 972, which states "an agreement to marry shall be made by the male and the female parties themselves," the amendment adds another paragraph stating "an agreement to marry between people of the same sex shall be made by the two parties involved."

Other amendments approved in the first reading involve rights and duties that will be applied to same-sex couples.

Earlier, the Legislative Yuan's Judiciary and Organic Laws and Statutes Committee also adopted Ker Chien-ming (???), a senior lawmaker of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, to refer all proposed legislation related to same-sex marriage to cross-party consultations.

Ahead of the committee meeting to review amendments to the Civil Code aimed at legalizing same-sex marriage, legislators across party lines promised not to block the meeting despite disagreement on whether to amend the Civil Code or instead pass a special law granting legal status to same-sex couples.

Ker reiterated on Sunday that there remains a long way to go before the bill clears the legislative floor.

According to Ker, the DPP caucus has not yet decided whether to support proposed draft amendments to the Civil Code or enact a new law and would allow members to vote their conscience.

Currently, four versions of amendments to the Civil Code have been proposed to legalize same-sex marriage, Ker noted, adding that the ruling and opposition parties have differing views on the bill.

Even if the committee passes the bill on Monday, it would then be the subject of further cross-caucus negotiations at the Legislative Yuan, Ker said, indicating that there is still a long way to go before the bill passes its third reading.

Meanwhile, Kuomintang caucus whip Liao Kuo-tung (???) said on Sunday that the party wants to legalize same-sex marriage by enacting a new law rather than amending the Civil Code and hopes the Ministry of Justice will bring forth its version.

Liao said the KMT caucus will not boycott the legislative committee meeting on Monday and hoped a bill would begin to take shape after the committee meeting stage.

In response to reports that the bill is expected to receive a third reading before the full Legislature in April 2017, Liao dismissed it as impossible, saying the KMT will boycott the third reading of the bill.

However, Liao said that amending the Civil Code was a matter that involved all people and should be decided through referendum.

New Power Party caucus whip Hsu Yung-ming (???) suggested the same-sex marriage bill should be placed on the agenda of the extraordinary legislative session scheduled for Jan. 20.

Lee Hung-chun (???), a party whip from the People First Party, said the party was open-minded on the matter and called for rational discussion during committee meetings.

On Monday, in concert with legislative committee deliberations on the bill, security measures were stepped up around the Legislative Yuan complex to prevent potential disturbances as supporters and opponents of same-sex marriage held rallies nearby.

In related news, according to a public survey released on Monday, 76 percent of respondents support holding a referendum on same-sex marriage, while 57 percent support enacting a special law.

The poll released by the Happiness of the Next Generation Alliance (???????) also showed that 52.6 percent of respondents opposed rewriting the definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman in the Civil Code.

The poll was conducted based on telephone interviews from Dec. 13-15 with 1,110 adults in 22 cities and counties around Taiwan. It had a confidence level of 95 percent and a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel