In terms of LGBTQ equality, Taiwan has been seen as one of the most progressive countries in Asia. Taiwan Pride attracts huge crowds, and a 2017 ruling the country’s Constitutional Court set Taiwan firmly on the path towards marriage equality.
However, in a referendum held on Saturday 24 November 2018, aspirations for marriage equality appear to have taken a backward step.
The referendum process was fairly complicated – three separate proposal were voted on, each proposed by competing political groups.
Results of the vote showed that the most popular proposal was that proposed by conservatives, which aims to maintain the current definition of marriage without any changes. Taiwan’s Civil Code currently defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
This creates a conflict between the 2017 decision of the Constitutional Court and popular opinion.
In its ruling, the Constitutional Court gave Taiwan’s parliament a maximum of two years to amend or enact laws so that same-sex marriage was legally recognised. According to the court ruling, if the Parliament fails to do so by 24 May 2019, same-sex marriage will automatically become legal.
Ahead of the results of Saturday’s referendum, the government has said that the referendum vote would not affect it bringing in the changes required by the court ruling. But President Tsai Ing-wen and her pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) suffered significant defeats in the elections held over the weekend, and their position is considerably weakened. The concern is that they will now be reluctant to move against public opinion and risk alienating conservative voters.
The future of marriage equality in Taiwan remains uncertain.