MAINLY Buddhist Taiwan, with a population of around 24 million, would have become the first country in Asia to legalise gay marriage following a 2017 ruling by the island’s Constitutional Court that to deny gay and lesbian couples the right to marry violated the constitution.
But aggressive interference in Taiwan’s affairs by US-based Christian groups is thought to have led to a defeat for same-sex marriage supporters who voted in a referendum last year. In the final tally about seven million Taiwanese voted to restrict the legal definition of marriage to between a man and a woman, with three million supporting the inclusive notion of marriage as between two people.
Christians in Taiwan, who make up only four to five percent of the population, started taking a lead from from vociferously anti-gay marriage groups based in America and elsewhere as far back as 2014. Local pastor Chen Chih-hung and then spokesman for the Alliance of Religious Groups for the Love of Families Taiwan, which played a prominent role opposing same-sex marriage, said in a 2014 interview that:
Christian churches in Taiwan are informed by churches abroad about what gay activists have been doing … We lack experience. They have told us how serious the issue is and what strategies [gay rights advocates] deploy … Christian groups take the lead on this issue since Asian religions haven’t traditionally seen homosexuality as a big deal. Churches in the US and Europe have confronted the impact of gay marriage directly.
So there we have it: further evidence that Christian bigots simply cannot keep their noses out of the affairs of foreign countries.
But the the gay marriage setback looks like being just a temporary glitch. On February 21, 2019, the Executive Yuan passed a draft bill which ignored the referendum result. It paves the way to a change in the law by May 24. The draft bill confers to same-sex married couples almost all the rights granted to heterosexual married couples under the Civil Code, but it only allows same-sex couples to adopt children that are genetically related to one of them.
This was music to the ears not only of those Taiwanese who want gay marriage, but to some of the world’s largest companies which said this week that marriage equality would boost the island’s economy.
Google, Airbnb, Deutsche Bank, EY, Mastercard and Microsoft have joined forces with nine other companies, including Taiwan-based O-Bank Co, to laud the benefits of same-sex weddings.
Said Patrick Pan, above, enterprise public lead at Microsoft Taiwan.
We value diversity, inclusivity, respect, equality and non-discrimination, as well as seek to protect these values within our company and while working with our business partners. We do so not only because it is the right thing to do, but also because it can make our company and society stronger and more successful.
Economists say the benefits of same-sex marriage include increased productivity, greater labour mobility and less stress in the workplace over perceived discrimination.
According to 2016 research from Swiss bank Credit Suisse, the performance of a basket of 270 companies that supported LGBT+ policies was on average 3 percent higher than that of the MSCI All Country World Index, which measures global stock movements.
Jennifer Lu, chief co-ordinator of Marriage Equality Coalition Taiwan, said passing marriage equality would send a message to the world that:
Taiwan is open for business.
It should also send a message to foreign Christian prodnoses that some countries will not tolerate faith-based intimidation.