Taiwan featured on the world stage twice within a week, the first time with an action that was unsuccessful but nevertheless attracted much attention, and the second time with an event which was heard around the world.
Following the failure of the World Health Organization to send an invitation to Taiwan to attend the annual World Health Assembly, Health and Welfare Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) nevertheless still decided to travel to Geneva to defend the country’s case. While unlike nine previous occasions, Taiwan was not allowed to attend proceedings, the minister’s strategy cannot be described as a failure, since it drew public attention and several major powers with official ties to China still dared to defend Taiwan.
However, the second event of the week ended on a positive note and helped the country to receive even more favorable and more widespread international media coverage, proving those wrong who say that only bad news gets reported.
For years, Taiwan has been described as the Asian country most likely to become the first to introduce same-sex marriage, but the island threatened to remain just that: a promise of things to come.
On May 24, the Constitutional Court was instrumental in taking a huge step in the right direction. It ruled that the Civil Code in its present shape violated the freedom of marriage and equality, handing the proponents of same-sex marriage a victory.
The court also decided that if no changes were enacted by the end of the next two years, same-sex couples would be allowed to register their relationship no matter what.
Apparently realizing the enormous resonation its ruling would have, the Constitutional Court even took the unusual step of providing an English-language version at the Judicial Yuan website.
Allowing same-sex marriages to go ahead has already proven an enormous boost to Taiwan’s international image, with media around the world reporting on the news, which signals an expansion of the practice from mainly Europe and America into Asia. Even Chinese netizens say they’ll want to organize trips to Taiwan to get married on the island.
With its ruling, the Constitutional Court has thrown the ball back into the court of the legislators. Over the past few years, the issue of same-sex marriage has been moving forward through the Legislative Yuan by fits and starts.
Each time a new development – such as for example, last year’s death of gay French professor Jacques Picoux – pushes the issue back on to the agenda, it again begins to falter a few months down the road.
Now that the impetus for change has speeded up again, the debate between amending existing laws, which is what the gay rights movement is demanding, and the drawing up of new separate legislation specifically aimed at same-sex marriage, which has been condemned as leaving gays as second-class citizens, is also certain to arise again.
While seeming irrelevant to outsiders, the debate between the two choices is likely to be used by opponents of same-sex marriage as a delaying tactic.
Yet, after the clear ruling by the court, there is nothing which should stand in the way of amending the necessary laws
For once, there is an issue which has nothing to do with “blue” or “green”, with Taiwan Independence or unification with China, so there should be no ideological divide stopping progress in its tracks.
Lawmakers from all parties have no reason to waste another two years before coming up with a solution acceptable to the gay community.
Many people in Taiwan like saying how the country is ‘Number One’ in many respects, trade, exports, economic development, health care, electronics, high-tech, and street food.
When the legislation passes and the first same-sex couple ties the knot, then Taiwan will truly become ‘Number One,’ at least in Asia, for expanding human rights and improving the lot of all its citizens.
The Legislative Yuan must now move forward on the impetus delivered by the court ruling and realize that approving same-sex marriage is not just about gay pride, but also about Taiwan pride.