Taiwan: Gay couple suing state for ban on equal marriage may withdraw their case

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A gay couple in Taiwan who filed a lawsuit last year after being rejected in their application for marriage, protested what they called the “passive” attitude of the justice system, and said they might withdraw their case.

In December, Nelson Chen and Kao Chih-wei filed the lawsuit against the Taipei city government for rejecting their attempt to register their marriage.

Mr Chen had since said he received abusive messages via Facebook since filing the case, and voiced concern for his family and friends who had been effected by it suggesting the couple may withdraw their case.

The couple refused to enter the court on Tuesday, in protest against the “passive attitude” of the justice system, and called for not only equal marriage law, but also anti-discrimination laws to protect LGBT people.

Mr Chen said: the Taiwanese government should “allow same-sex couples to live in a fair environment, free of discrimination.”

Speaking about his family and friends, who he said were effected by the case, he said: “Does seeking marriage registration still make sense if my friends and family are hurt because of it?” Chen asked, according to the Taipei Times. 

The couple held a public wedding banquet in 2006, a year before the civil code was amended to require that all marriages be officially registered with the government for legal recognition.

Before the amendment, marriages in Taiwan were considered legal given that a public ceremony was held with witnesses present.

Their application was rejected twice, before they decided to take legal action.

During the hearing on 29 November, two expert witnesses spoke strongly in favour of allowing the couple’s marriage legal recognition, and of legalising marriage equality.

When asked about their expectations from the justice system following the case, Mr Chen said the Ministry of Justice should have been more active about proposing a revision of the law, after it completed a study of same-sex marriage systems in Germany, France and Canada in May 2012.

The study had concluded that the same-sex partnership system in Germany provided “a better common ground and a compromise solution between the marriage equality groups and those who are opposed to same-sex marriages.”

The court said that the plaintiff, and the defendant, the Zhongshan District Household Registration Office, could provide more information about how such a marriage would go against the Constitution of the Republic of China, they had until 22 February to do so.

Bruce Liao, an associate professor of law at National Chengchi University, said the case was positive for the LGBT community, no matter what the outcome may be.

He said: “No matter what the court rules, it is the beginning of society seriously discussing the issue of gay marriage.”