On Wednesday afternoon, cheers rang out in the streets of Taipei as Taiwan’s top constitutional court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, but not everyone present was so overjoyed. The ruling has left anti-gay groups on the island in shock, with one prominent activist likening the decision to the September 11th terror attacks of 2001.
Shih Chun-yu, a student at Fu Jen Catholic University in New Taipei City who heads the Protection of Family Value Students Organization, bowed to supporters following the announcement, apologizing, “We did not work hard enough, we have failed.”
“Fifteen grand justices belonging to the previous generation have made a decision that will impact the tomorrow of our generation of youths, leaving them lost concerning their future,” Shih said at a press conference yesterday. “These 15 grand justices have bypassed the Legislative Yuan, using judicial means to rewrite the definition of marriage that has existed in this country for over a century. This ruling, together with gender equality education, will mislead more students to become homosexuals.”
“This ruling will destroy the foundation of the family and marriage in Taiwan, just like the Twin Towers were destroyed in the 9/11 attacks,” he added.
Prior to the announcement, members of various anti-gay religious and civic groups advocating for “traditional family values” demonstrated outside of the courthouse in Taipei, waving banners and signs that read: “Defend the traditional family” and “Justice is dead and buried.”
When the long-awaited ruling was announced, some demonstrators broke down into tears while others ripped up sheets of white paper and threw them at police to show their utter disgust at the decision favoring same-sex marriage rights. They began to chant: “Shame on the judiciary!” “We want a referendum!” and “Down with Tsai Ing-wen!”
One 37-year-old Taiwanese mother told the Telegraph that she was “very angry” with the decision, adding that she was most concerned with the possibility that her children would be taught about homosexuality in school.
In its historic ruling, the Council of Grand Justices has given Taiwan’s parliament two years to amend the island’s Civil Code to guarantee marriage rights for same-sex couples; however, anti-gay groups like the Happiness Alliance have announced that they will seek to recall any lawmakers who try to move forward on such legislation, arguing that it goes against the will of their constituents — despite the fact that recent polling shows public opinion in Taiwan is behind marriage equality — while at the same time calling for a public referendum to be held on the issue.
Leading anti-gay activist Chang Shou-yi, secretary general of the Alliance of Taiwan Religious Groups for the Protection of Family, described the ruling as a “farce” and a “stain on Taiwan’s judicial history”.
The Alliance accused the grand justices of having twisted the law to fit the “script that had already been written” and urged the Control Yuan, which serves as an anti-corruption commission and political ombudsman, to investigate the grand justices for dereliction of duty and infringement of legislative authority. If found guilty, the grand justices should be removed from office and punished, said the Alliance.
At a press conference where he was flanked by representatives from faith-based groups, Chang described the ruling as “going against the wishes of the majority of people”, and that this was “not a good thing for future generations.”
“How can our grand justices be making such narrow, superficial arguments?” he fumed. “If today, all of these issues have been thoroughly debated, all the people would be happy to go along.”
“What we’re against here is the sexual behavior,” he emphasized. “Homosexuality is harmful to the genitalia, and it spreads diseases. If that was not the case, we’d be okay with the ruling.”
Referring to the death of young writer Lin Yi-han who committed suicide as a result of her rape by a cram school teacher, Chang asked, “Are teacher-student relationships okay? Is incest okay? Human civilization has come so far because one-man-one-woman is the most suitable, and it is capable of procreation.”
The Chinese Regional Bishops Conference, which oversees affairs related to the Roman Catholic church in Taiwan, expressed opposition to the ruling in a statement. “We urge believers in every parish to perform eucharistic adoration, to enter into a period of fasting, and to perform acts of penance,” the statement added. “Pray for the sacred union of one man one woman, for God’s blessing on national policy, and lift up the people of Taiwan to Jesus Christ, our compassionate savior, and Mary, mother of compassion.”
Along with Christian condemnation, opponents of same-sex marriage have also argued 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.”
“Now they want to amend the law to do away with the ‘father’ and ‘mother’ altogether,” David Tseng, an anti-gay alliance’s spokesman told AFP last November. “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.”
As Taiwan seemed on the verge of marriage equality in recent months, anti-gay groups mobilized and took to the streets, holding massive demonstrations across Taiwan and launching a publicity campaign that attempted to link same-sex marriage to incest, bestiality and AIDS. The Washington Post notes that one religious group even warned that the legalization of gay marriage would mean that “it’s possible to marry a Ferris wheel.”
Following’s Wednesday’s landmark ruling it is now up to the government and legislature, controlled by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), to draft and pass legislation securing marriage rights for Taiwan’s gay couples. While gay rights supporters are overjoyed with the court’s decision, they know that the fight is not yet over. There is some worry that lawmakers will create a special category for same-sex unions in order to appease the island’s vocal opponents of gay marriage.
[Images via CNA / newtalk.tw / Oriental Daily]
Follow Shanghaiist on WeChat