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Taiwan Votes Against Marriage Equality in Referendum, but All Is Not Lost

While the voting result is a setback for Taiwan's progress on LGBTQ rights, there is still hope.

In May 2017, Taiwan's high court passed a resolution ruling that the country's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. The Taiwanese government was then given a two-year deadline to put marriage equality into law. However, the legislation stalled because authorities were on the fence about whether the legal recognition of same-sex unions should be entered through amendments to the Civil Code or through the introduction of new legislation. 

This deadlock, combined with a revision on the referendum law which gives more leeway for public referendums to be facilitated, gave Taiwan's conservative groups an opportunity to stall the legalization of same-sex unions by putting forth two questions regarding the issue for a public vote on Saturday, November 24.

The questions included, "Do you agree that marriage defined in the Civil Code should be restricted to the union between one man and one woman?" and "Do you agree to the protection of the rights of same-sex couples in co-habitation on a permanent basis in ways other than changing of the Civil Code?", both of which received enough votes to pass.

While this means that it will be challenging for same-sex marriage to be legalized through amendments to the Civil Code, it doesn't imply that achieving that through other legal means, such as coming up with new legislation, is impossible.

Taiwan News reports that spokeswoman for the Executive Yuan, a Taiwanese government branch, said new legislation to protect same-sex unions rights is being drafted to send to the legislative branch. It appears likely, according to the news source, that a new category of "civil union" will be introduced, as opposed to "marriage," to satisfy both the referendum results and the constitutional court order from 2017.

“The referendum is a general survey, it doesn’t have very strong legal implications," Shiau Hong-chi, a gender studies professor, told the Guardian. "One way or another it has to go back to the court."

[Photo via Quartz]

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