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Taiwan court ruling on Macau citizen opens door to international same-sex marriages

Court rules Macau partner can register for marriage due to his residency status in Taiwan

Guzifer (left), Shinchi (right). (Facebook, 信的店-Pastry Collection photo)

Guzifer (left), Shinchi (right). (Facebook, 信的店-Pastry Collection photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A high court on Thursday (May 6) ruled that same-sex marriage between a Taiwanese citizen and a Macau national should be recognized in Taiwan, opening the door to marriages with others who come from countries where same-sex marriage is illegal.

On Thursday, the Taipei High Administrative Court ruled that the Household Registration office must allow a Taiwanese citizen, who goes by Shinchi (信奇) and his partner from Macau, who calls himself Guzifer (阿古), to legally register their marriage in Taiwan. In 2019, the office had denied their request to register their wedding on the grounds that same-sex marriage is not legally recognized in Macau.

During a press conference after the decision was announced, Guzifer said many multinational same-sex couples have been waiting with anticipation for the result. He thanked the court for its decision and expressed hope that it will pave the way for partners of many more nationalities to legally register their marriages with Taiwanese same-sex partners.

During the court hearing, Guzifer stated that he had moved to Taiwan from Macau in 1996 and has long regarded the country as his home. Guzifer argued that Taiwan is his "habitual residence" where he and Shinchi run a pastry shop together.

The attorneys appointed for the couple by the Taiwan Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership Rights argued that in accordance with the Macau Civil Code, the marriage status of a Macau citizen will follow that of their place of habitual residence. The lawyers argued that Guzifer's marriage status should therefore be registered in accordance with Taiwan law and not Macau law.

The Household Registration Office countered by citing Article 46 of the Act Governing the Choice of Law in Civil Matters Involving Foreign Elements (涉外民事法律適用法). The office's rationale was that the act states: "The formation of a marriage is governed by the national law of each party."

For nearly two years, this has prevented same-sex marriages from taking place in Taiwan between citizens and partners from countries where such marriages are illegal, leaving nationals from only 27 countries eligible. It has also hindered same-sex marriages in third countries from being legally recognized in Taiwan.

In a similar ruling in March, a high court ruled in favor of longtime Taiwanese gay rights activist Chi Chia-wei (祁家威) and his Malaysian partner, citing Article 8, which states that the law of a foreign state is not applied if "the result of such application leads to a violation of the public order or boni mores of the Republic of China." The court also struck down the office's policy based on "The Enforcement Act of Judicial Yuan Interpretation No. 748" (司法院釋字第748號解釋施行法), which gave same-sex couples the right to marry.

On Jan. 22, the Judicial Yuan proposed an amendment that would modify Article 46 of the Civil Code to recognize same-sex marriages on the condition that at least one of the partners is a Taiwanese citizen. The Judicial Yuan's amendment is currently pending a review by the Cabinet and a vote by the Legislative Yuan.

The Household Registration Office in Taipei's Zhongzheng District said that because it has not yet received the court's judgment, it is not yet clear about its content. The office stated that once it receives the decision, it will study it and make a determination on whether or not to appeal the ruling.