hile it may have appeared last spring that Taiwan was well on its way to becoming the first in Asia to recognize same-sex marriages, conservative groups have still not given up the fight, setting the stage for a public referendum on the issue.
The anti-gay marriage group Happiness of the Next Generation Alliance announced this week that it had gathered up enough signatures to submit three referendum petitions to election authorities. The first of these asks whether marriage should be defined as between a man and a woman. The second asks if Taiwan’s civil code should be amended to recognize same-sex marriage. And the third looks to remove same-sex education from the classroom.
According to the alliance, all of these referendums gathered more than 600,000 signatures, well over the threshold of 280,000. Once approved by election authorities, they will go on the ballot in November.
While a referendum cannot overturn a court ruling, the government is obliged to propose laws that reflect their results, causing many activists to worry that a separate law may have to be enacted for civil unions between same-sex couples.
Last May, Taiwan’s top constitutional court ruled that banning same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, ordering that within the next two years the island’s civil code needs to be revised to enshrine marriage equality as law. Despite the excitement over this ruling, all efforts at accelerating the revision have been stalled with Tsai Ing-wen’s administration taking no action on the issue despite the president’s previous public support for gay marriage.
Having lost in court, same-sex marriage opponents have decided to take the fight to the public yet again. Gay rights activists have responded by gathering up enough signatures for their own counter-referendum, which asks that the civil code be amended to include gay marriage.