Protests gather as polls suggest opposition to same-sex marriage grows in Taiwan

On an historic day when Taiwan’s Legislature took the first steps towards legalising same-sex marriage in the country, protesters gathered to oppose the move.

The demonstrations come as a new poll apparently shows that support for same-sex marriage is now outweighed by opposition to it.

Protesters against same-sex marriage gathered outside of the Legislature on Monday as a Parliamentary Committee took the first steps towards marriage equality.

Police kept anti-equality protesters separate from the smaller number that gathered to demonstrate in favour of marriage equality.

Despite the Committee passing amendments to the Civil Code which should pave the way for equal marriage, votes from the full Parliament aren’t expected until 2017.

Meanwhile, some have called for a referendum on the issue as a poll by the Taiwanese Public Opinion Foundation showed that opposition to equality is growing in the country.

A November poll found that 46.3 percent of people were in favour of same-sex marriage with 45.4 percent against.

But a December poll by the same organisation found only 37.8 percent supported equality, with 56 percent opposed.

The poll was conducted by telephone between 20 and 21 December among randomly selected adults over the age of 20.

1097 people were surveyed and there was a margin of error of 2.96.

President Tsai Ing-wen said following protests in favour of the bill: “Let’s not treat the people around us as enemies,”

Lawmakers in the country are hoping to push further on equality issues – with politicians from the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) last month filing a bill that would legalise same-sex weddings.

The bill would change the definition of marriage to specify it is between two people, rather than between a “man and woman”.

As the legislation heads towards Parliament, hopes are high that it could pass – making Taiwan the first country in Asia to permit same-sex couples to marry. The country’s President,  Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party, previously expressed support for equal marriage.

There is some opposition to the legislation, however, primarily from Western-inspired fundamentalist church groups, who have some influence in the region.

The anti-LGBT Alliance of Religious Groups for the Love of Families Taiwan has vowed to protest the change.

The group’s head Chang Shou-yi fumed: “What gay activists want is for their lifestyle to be affirmed by society, but why do they need to change the traditional institution of marriage, which goes back thousands of years?”