Voters in Taiwan have rejected marriage equality in a series of referendums, creating uncertainty around how the government will respond to a court ruling demanding legal recognition of same-sex unions in the country.
In May last year, Taiwan’s top court ruled that the country’s marriage laws violated same-sex couples’ constitutional right to equality and set a two-year deadline for the parliament to amend the existing laws or pass new ones.
But the government failed to act and after petitions from both anti- and pro-LGBTIQ groups, a series of competing public votes were held on Saturday, six months ahead of the May 2019 deadline.
One called for the current definition of marriage in Taiwan’s Civil Code – recognised as between a man and a woman – to stay unchanged won more than seven million votes, passing the threshold for success, AFP reported.
And another calling for legal protections for same-sex unions under a separate law gained over six million, also passing the threshold.
But a referendum by LGBTIQ advocates proposing the Civil Code be amended to define marriage to be between two people only received three million votes in favour, falling short of the number of votes needed.
The Marriage Equality Coalition Taiwan said they were “deeply saddened and disappointed” by the results of the referendum.
“However, we would like to express our gratitude toward those who have been supporting the cause throughout the process,” the group said.
Opposing group, the Coalition for the Happiness of our Next Generation, said the win was a victory for all people “who treasure family values”.
The results of the referendum are a major setback for LGBTIQ advocates in the country and while the votes won’t affect the 2017 court ruling or the May 2019 deadline for change, it’s now unclear how the government will respond.
LGBTIQ campaigners are concerned that establishing a separate marriage or civil partnership scheme would fail to deliver same-sex couples full equality.
Human rights group Amnesty International said the results don’t change the need to provide legal recognition to same-sex unions but they “cast a shadow” on how that will be implemented.
“This result is a bitter blow and a step backwards for human rights in Taiwan,” Amnesty International Taiwan’s Acting Director Annie Huang said.
“However, despite this setback, we remain confident that love and equality will ultimately prevail.”
Huang warned the result “must not be used as an excuse to further undermine the rights of LGBTI people.”
“The Taiwanese government needs to step up and take all necessary measures to deliver equality and dignity for all, regardless of who people love,” she said.
(Photo by Rod Stringer)