Taiwan to hold same-sex marriage referendum

Taiwan will hold a referendum on same-sex marriage, it has been announced.

The referendum, set to be held on November 24, will decide the country’s approach to same-sex unions in the wake of a landmark court ruling.

In May 2017, Taiwan’s constitutional court ruled that gay couples must have the right to marry, giving politicians two years to introduce the reform through the legislature before the right to marry automatically comes into effect.

However, the referendum announced by the Central Election Commission seeks to throw a roadblock in the way of reforms by creating a new segregated form of legal union for same-sex couples, and reserving the existing marriage law for “a man and a woman.”

It comes after months of pressure from anti-LGBT groups, who amassed hundreds of thousands of signatures opposing the direct introduction of same-sex marriage through the Civil Code.

Anti-gay marriage protesters display the number of anti-gay marriage petition signatures outside Taiwan’s Central Election Commission in Taipei on August 28, 2018. (SAM YEH/AFP/Getty)

The referendum proposal has been met with concern from LGBT+ activists, who fear that couples could end up with a “discriminatory” form of union rather than the right to marry.

Jennifer Lu, coordinator of Marriage Equality Coalition Taiwan, told Reuters: “As Taiwanese, we feel sorry but we don’t have time and room for disappointment.”

The campaign against equal marriage was led by the Coalition for the Happiness of Our Next Generation, which has stirred anti-LGBT sentiment in the country.

Their proposed referendum would “strictly define [marriage] as between a man and a woman.”

The Taipei Times reports that a separate question mooted by the group seeks to ban mentions of homosexuality in schools.

The group claims the issues “entirely affect Taiwan’s moral principles and family values.”

LGBT+ activests protest outside the parliament in Taipei on May 24, 2017 ( SAM YEH/AFP/Getty)

The country has until May 2019 to settle the issue.

Taiwan’s Premier Lai Ching-te said previously: “We will seek the greatest consensus of society in the most active way.

“I support the idea that people who love each other should have the right to be together.”

However, equal marriage bills have failed to gain traction in the legislature, despite the looming court deadline.

LGBT+ activists hoped that Taiwan would become the first country in Asia to introduce same-sex marriage.

A supporter of same-sex rights holds a sign during a gay pride parade in Taipei on October 28, 2017. (SAM YEH/AFP/Getty)

The court case that sparked the court ruling was brought by LGBT+ rights campaigner Chi Chia-wei.

The long-serving gay activist attempted registering his marriage to his male partner in 2013, but was rejected.

The activist filed a legal challenge, bringing the case all the way to the constitutional court, which ultimately ruled in his favour.