The tragic death of a prominent French-born professor in Taiwan this month could move the country to become the first East Asian jurisdiction to legalize same-sex marriage.
Jacques Picoux, 67, was found dead on October 17th after falling from his tenth-floor apartment in Taipei. Students and friends say that Picoux had never recovered from depression brought on by the death of his partner of 35 years Tseng Ching-chao.
Due to the couple’s unrecognized status, Picoux was unable to make critical medical decisions regarding Tseng’s cancer treatment or take over ownership of their shared home and savings.
Amidst widespread public sympathy over Picoux’s passing, Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) last month drafted a bill to reform family rights law to include same-sex couples.
The topic of marriage equality was first raised by Taiwan’s executive branch in 2003 but encountered fierce opposition from cabinet members and conservatives. Although renewed efforts to push legislation was met with similar resistance in 2012, lawmakers now have reasons to be optimistic.
According to Pride Watch activist Cindy Su, over half of Taiwan’s sitting legislators would likely vote to legalize same-sex marriage—an historic first for Taiwan.
During last year’s Pride celebrations, now-President Tsai Ing-wen 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.
In February the city of Chiayi became the latest to start accepting household registrations for same-sex couples, joining a growing list that includes Taipei, Kaosiung and four other municipalities.
Public opinion is also getting behind marriage equality. A 2015 poll found that close to two thirds of respondents supported legislation recognizing same-sex unions.
By Avery Davenport
[Images via World of Nancy Lu / BBC]