Yesterday, thousands of people took to the street just outside of Taiwan’s parliament building to voice their opposition to a set of bills that would make Taiwan the first place in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage.
Dressed in white and holding signboards with slogans like “Marriage and family, let the people decide” and “Stand forward for the next generation’s happiness,” the protesters argued that the institution of same-sex marriage would undermine the “traditional family values” that Taiwanese society was built on.
Last month, the pro-gay rights Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) drafted the historic bills to widespread international acclaim. The legislation passed through the first round of vetting earlier this month and gay rights supporters are optimistic that it will become law by the end of the year.
To try and prevent this from happening, anti-gay rights groups led by the Alliance of Taiwan Religious Groups for the Protection of Family organized thousands of people to come to Taipei and protest in front of the Legislative Yuan as lawmakers were discussing the issue inside. The organization claimed that over 20,000 people took part in the demonstration, while police put that number at around 12,000.
Also outside parliament was a small counter-protest featuring about 100 gay rights supporters. Police were forced to create a barrier between the two groups to keep things from getting out of control. About a dozen of the gay rights protesters did manage to cause a commotion after storming into the Legislative Yuan building.
These protesters are calling for public hearings and votes on the issue of legalizing same-sex marriage, saying that the public has not even been asked its opinion on this critical issue. However, recent opinion polling shows that the majority of Taiwanese people support same sex-sex marriage. Supporters say that the protesters are merely trying to delay the inevitable.
Opponents of same-sex marriage argue that Taiwanese society has its roots in Confucianism, which promotes a strong adherence to traditional family values, and of course, producing offspring. They argue that the fundamental concept of marriage should be between a man and a woman, otherwise it would be “very confusing for children,” the China Post reports.
“Now they want to amend the law to do away with the ‘father’ and ‘mother’ altogether,” David Tseng, the alliance’s spokesman told the AFP. “We are different from the West. In Eastern culture, we place great importance on filial piety to one’s father and mother. This is a virtue we must keep.”
Of course, opposition to same-sex marriage is also rooted in Christanity. The AFP adds that a Christian alliance from southern Taiwan, wearing black clerical clothing, was also prominent at the protest.
“Only a heterosexual marriage can create the possibility of bearing children, and only then can we sustain the nation’s next generation,” a pastor representing the group said. “Marriage is a human right, but like all human rights there are limitations.”
The limitations of the current law is one major factor that has caused a push for change. Last month, a prominent French-born professor in Taiwan was found dead after falling from his tenth-floor apartment in Taipei. Students and friends say that he had never recovered from depression brought on by the death of his partner of 35 years. Due to the couple’s unrecognized status, he was unable to make critical medical decisions regarding his partner’s cancer treatment or take over ownership of their shared home and savings.
The topic of marriage equality was first raised by Taiwan’s executive branch in 2003 but encountered fierce opposition from cabinet members and conservatives from the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) party. However, in January, the DPP won a sweeping victory at the polls, taking over Taiwan’s legislature and presidency.
Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-wen has openly voiced her support for gay marriage. During last year’s Pride celebrations, Tsai posted a video to her Facebook page backing marriage equality. All Taiwanese should have “the freedom to love and choose their own happiness,” Tsai’s message read.
After watching that, check out a video of the protests below:
[Images via Sina / NetEase]