Taiwan will hold a referendum on 24 November on whether the country’s civil code should recognize same-sex marriage. It is a blow to campaigners for equal marriage in the country.
The country’s highest court ruled last May that refusing same-sex couples the right to marry was unconstitutional. It was the first such ruling in Asia.
The judges gave a two-year year deadline for legalization of same-sex marriage. But, politicians have been slow to legislate.
Conservative group, the Happiness of the Next Generation Alliance, argued for a separate law to protect ‘family values’.
In August, they submitted a referendum petition to the election commission. On Tuesday (9 October) Taiwan’s Central Election Commission approved a petition.
Equal marriage campaigners have denounced such a law as failing to give genuine equality. The election commission also agreed to a referendum on including LGBT education in the curriculum.
Jennifer Lu, the coordinator of activist group Marriage Equality Coalition Taiwan, said she felt ‘very sorry’ about the referendum.
‘These three referenda are trying to remove LGBTI citizens from the Civil Code and LGBTI education from schools’.
But, she said, ‘we do not have time for disappointment’.
Lu urged LGBTI Taiwanese and their allies to have ‘millions of conversations’ to let everyone know that equal marriage will increase social harmony. ‘We will try our best to win and let Taiwan move toward a better future’.
Lu also said that government inaction had increased division in society.
President Tsai Ing-wen campaigned on a promise of equal marriage ahead of elections in 2016. Since her Democratic Progressive Party took power, however, the LGBTI community has grown frustrated at her failure to legislate equality.
Taiwan is largely regarded as one of the best places to be LGBTI in Asia. Furthermore, later this month, tens of thousands are expected to attend the region’s largest pride parade.