Taiwan is one of the most liberal countries in the Asia Pacific region in relation to sexual orientation issues. Humayun and Cullinane (2018) illustrate how Taiwanese voters rejected same-sex marriage in a referendum. The authors demonstrate the efforts made by the political leadership to manage human rights concerns through constitutional initiatives. However, the rejection of same-sex marriage through a referendum indicates an impending legal battle in the country. For example, the high court ruled that prohibiting same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, while the referendum held on the question of whether to validate or invalidate same-sex marriages was against the practice (Humayun & Cullinane, 2018). Although the political leadership of Taiwan is attempting to manage discussions on same-sex marriage, nullifying referendum results through a court ruling will adversely affect the rights of LGBT.
The main challenge for the government is to manage the views of the majority and observe the court order. Notably, the court ruling provided a two-year moratorium for the legislature to ensure that marriage and equality laws are enacted. Although citizens rejected same-sex marriages, the government remains obligated to respect the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) communities.
Regional trends against observing the rights of the LGBT also affect the current perspectives in Taiwan. For example, the public caning of two women who attempted to have sex in a car in Malaysia and the suggestions to ban same-sex marriage in Indonesia influenced Taiwan’s referendum vote on gay marriage acknowledgment (Humayun & Cullinane, 2018). Similar perspectives have also been witnessed in the Philippines and parts of mainland China, making the region susceptible to LGBT rights abuse. While the country has to comply with the high court order until 2019, the underlying challenge for the government is to oversee the rights of the LGBT, which have been rejected by a majority vote. Taiwan must rise beyond regional perceptions and implement a globally accepted standard of human rights irrespective of influencing circumstances within and outside its borders.
Taiwan can experience a constitutional crisis if issues of same-sex marriages are not tackled urgently. While the court ruling did not provide an alternative compromise, the legal process of implementing the court ruling, which is through the referendum, has already failed. Nonetheless, the judicial order from the high court still stands irrespective of the varying dynamics. Though the majority of citizens rejected same-sex marriage, the reality is that individuals do not control their sexual formation. Therefore, trying to manage the situation through public opinion would only infringe on people’s rights. Leaders should ensure that cultural beliefs and practices are protected by the law if such provisions do not invade the privacy of other individuals.
It is worth noting that LGBT debates have often been centered on issues of intercultural connectedness with westernized ideologies and lifestyles. Nonetheless, attempting to manage the aspects of morality through the lenses of public perceptions would only aggravate the situation. Hence, citizens have the obligation to respect other individuals’ sexual orientations. Therefore, to bring Taiwanese people to agree on whether the country should legitimize same-sex marriages, the leadership should employ a democratic process to manage such a highly divisive national agenda. It is imperative to tackle issues of morality by social or religious leaders and manage them privately rather than subjecting such questions to public perceptions, which are easily influenced by politics.
Humayun, H., & Cullinane, S. (2018). Taiwan voters reject same-sex marriage. CNN. Retrieved from https://edition.cnn.com/2018/11/25/asia/taiwan-same-sex-marriage-referendum/index.html