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Same-sex marriage referendums: Taiwan Civil Code may remain unchanged

Referendum questions posed by traditionally anti-gay marriage groups garner support

LGBT pride parade in Taipei, 2016

LGBT pride parade in Taipei, 2016 (Taiwan News photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Preliminary results from the same-sex marriage referendums held on Nov. 24 suggest that the Civil Code will remain unchanged, and the legalization of same-sex unions is likely to take place through the passing of new legislation.

Three referendums were put to the people during local elections today, with early results suggesting that two referendums drafted by groups traditionally against same-sex marriage received stronger support than the one by groups supporting marriage equality.

Although Taiwan’s high court ruled in May 2017 that the ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional and gave the government two years to reform, the topic has remained controversial due to different interpretations of legalization.

Civil society groups who were initially against same-sex marriage argue that legal reform should be made outside of changes to the Civil Code, while groups who lobbied for marriage equality argue separate legislation amounts to a form of discrimination.

Due in part to relaxation to rules relating to publically-instigated referendums, the people of Taiwan voted on a total of 10 referendums ranging from same-sex marriage to energy production, and from food import bans to Taiwan’s international sport moniker today.

The three same-sex marriage referendums put to the people are outlined below:

  • Case No. 10: “Do you agree that marriage defined in The Civil Code should be restricted to the union between one man and one woman?"
  • Case No. 12: "Do you agree to the protection of the rights of same-sex couples in co-habitation on a permanent basis in ways other than changing of the Civil Code?”
  • Case No. 14: "Do you agree to the protection of same-sex marital rights with marriage as defined in the Civil Code?"

According to preliminary results released by the Central Election Commission, Case No. 10 which has the potential to deny reforms to the Civil Code has received overwhelming support, with 70.12 percent of voters in favor.

According to Case No. 12, 57.60 percent of voters are in favor of potential legalization of same-sex marriage through means other than reforms to the civil code.

Lastly, according to Case No. 14, 30.27 percent of voters support same-sex marriage legalization through amendments to the Civil Code.

According to the Referendum Act (公民投票法) a result in favor of the referendum must exceed 25 percent of total eligible votes, and must be also greater than the number of votes against, according to the Central Election Commission.

In practice, this means that for a referendum to pass during the local elections on Nov. 24, over 4,939,267 votes must be cast in favor of the motion, and the votes for must outnumber those against.

The complete referendum results are expected by 2.00 a.m. on Nov. 25, as referendum responses will be counted after votes for political positions has taken place.