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

People of Taiwan vote to keep Civil Code unchanged, same-sex marriage set to enter into law through new legislation

LGBT pride parade in Taipei, 2018

LGBT pride parade in Taipei, 2018 (Taiwan News photo)

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

The people of Taiwan voted to maintain the concept of marriage as defined in the Civil Code to be between a man and a woman.

In May 2017, Taiwan’s high court ruled that it was unconstitutional for same-sex couples to be barred from marriage, and gave the government two years to legalize it. Due to disagreements within Taiwan’s parliament, legislation to legalize same-sex marriage stalled.

The main point of contention is whether same-sex marriage should be legalized through amendments to the Civil Code, or through introduction of new legislation. Groups traditionally against same-sex marriage are against reforms to the Civil Code.

This political deadlock in conjunction with relaxing of rules to facilitate publically-instigated referendums has led to a total of 10 referendums ranging from same-sex marriage to energy production, and from food import bans to Taiwan’s international sport moniker.

Three referendums specially addressing same-sex marriage were voted on today, with two being drawn up by groups historically against it, and one counter referendum led by people for same-sex marriage.

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?"

Cases No. 10 and 12 both achieved enough votes to pass, while Case No. 14 failed.

This leads to the suggestion that same-sex marriage will not be achieved through amendments to the Civil Code, and the public gave support to reform through other means.

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 more votes must be in favor than against, according to the Central Election Commission.

As of 11.50 p.m., Cases No. 10 and 12 both passed this threshold, with around 1,500 polling stations yet to report their results.

The contents of a successful referendum must be enshrined in law and cannot be altered by the Legislative Yuan. The Legislative Yuan can only amend technical aspects including wording and format. This means in principle that contradictory laws have the potential to be put in place.

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 are completed.