Same-Sex Marriage Bill an historic moment for Taiwan and a huge dilemma for the KMT

Opposition KMT split over loyalty to Beijing and whether they really want to oppose a Constitutional Court ruling

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(Photo by Sophia Yang)

(Photo by Sophia Yang) (By Taiwan News)

It’s been a long time coming, but finally, the Taiwanese government has revealed how it plans to implement equal marriage reforms.

The catchily-titled bill is officially known as ‘The Enforcement Act of Judicial Yuan Interpretation No. 748,’ but to most people, it has already become known as the ‘Same-Sex Marriage Bill.'

It is slated to enter the Legislative Yuan agenda on March 5th and should become law ahead of the deadline of May 24th that the Constitutional Court set for same-sex marriages have to been legalized.

But there could be a few bumps in the road before it makes it onto the statute book depending on the stance that the opposition KMT chooses to take.

How will the KMT vote?

While the KMT does not have sufficient numbers to stop the bill passing into law, the question of how they choose to vote is one which could have widespread implications. It will certainly tell the Taiwanese public a great deal about the party’s true intentions.

At the time of writing, the only official comment from the KMT was made by spokesperson Johnny Chiang (江啟臣) who said the party was undertaking internal discussions before it decided how to vote.

The very fact that they need to have such discussions says a great deal. Firstly, it is clear that the KMT is seriously considering voting against a bill which has been brought at the behest of Taiwan’s Constitutional Court, the highest court in the land.

The Court has ruled that discriminating against same-sex marriage is against the Taiwanese constitution. The Same-Sex Marriage Bill is simply enforcing that ruling, as is made clear by its official title.

Does the KMT really have the guts to vote directly against a ruling by the country’s Constitutional Court? If it does, what does that say about their respect for Taiwan’s own constitution and the basic rights of the Taiwanese people they are supposed to represent?

One consideration that the KMT no doubt has to bear in mind when making its mind up about Same-Sex marriage and equality comes from across the Taiwan Straits. Despite its long history of battling Communism, the KMT party has now firmly established itself as the pro-Chinese Communist Party (CCP) voice in Taiwan.

Their desire to move Taiwan closer to China permeates everything the party does. For evidence of this, we just have to look at the speed with which newly appointed KMT Mayors such as Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) in Kaohsiung have cosied up to Beijing since their election.

This is undoubtedly going to be the case with same-sex marriage too and this presents the KMT with a problem. Because the CCPs record on gay rights is almost as shocking as their treatment of the Muslim minority in Xinjiang Province.

Homosexual discrimination under the CCP

It is a comparison which warrants a closer look. Under the Communist regime in China, all homosexuality was considered illegal until as late as 1997. Shockingly, it was not until 2001 that the Chinese Society of Psychiatry declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder.

Homosexuality may not be formally illegal in China anymore, but it sits in a curious gray area. The Constitution of China under the CCP doesn’t contain any anti-discrimination provisions for homosexual people. China remains a socially conservative country and homosexuality continues to be frowned upon by large sections of society.

In more recent years, as CCP leader Xi Jinping has begun a brutal crackdown on all sorts of different freedoms, life for homosexual people in China has deteriorated significantly.

In 2015, the China Television Drama Production Industry Association banned the depiction of homosexual relationships on TV describing them as “abnormal.” Online content, such as the popular Chinese gay web series Addicted (Heroin), has also fallen foul of the censors.

Last year, Sina Weibo, the Chinese Twitter briefly banned all LGBT-related content while the Communist regime also banned a campaign marking the International Day Against Homophobia on school campuses and blocked Hong Kong from hosting the Mr. Gay World event.

This is just a handful of examples of the systematic and often violent discrimination that homosexual people continue to suffer in Communist China. Should Taiwan fall into the CCP's hands, people should be under no illusion that this discrimination will come to Taiwan too. Taiwan’s implementation of homosexual rights has been one of the country’s great success stories and made Taiwan a hotspot for gay culture and travelers in Asia.

By advocating unification, the KMT is in effect promoting this anti-homosexual stance, although not many people seem to recognize the fact. By openly opposing the same-sex marriage bill, the KMT would be broadcasting this position much more clearly than they have in the past.

The implications of defying the constitution

Since the establishment of democracy, Taiwan has become a bastion of human rights in a part of the world where they can be in short supply, not least in Communist China.

The implementation of same-sex marriage rights is the latest step down this road and has been lauded by international democratic governments around the world. It is something that most people in Taiwan are, rightly, very proud of.

There will always be a vocal minority who oppose such equal rights. It is no coincidence that in Taiwan, these conservative groups can mostly be traced back to either Communist China or to extreme Christian groups, usually based in the US.

The day the Same-Sex Marriage bill passes into law will be a historic moment for Taiwan and the whole of south-east Asia. It will be a moment of great celebration when Taiwan shows vision and lights the way forward for many other countries in this part of the world, including Communist China.

The question domestically is, do the KMT support this fundamental progression in Taiwanese human rights, something which the Taiwanese Constitution demands.

Or do they really want to publicly state their objective to drag Taiwan back to the dark oppressive days of authoritarianism that they have already subjected the country to for so many years?