Taipei court holds hearing on gay marriage (update)
Central News Agency
2012-11-29 08:53 PM
Taipei, Nov. 29 (CNA) The Taipei High Administrative Court held a first three-judge court hearing Thursday on a case involving two Taiwanese gay men seeking their marriage to be given legal status. "No matter what the court rules, it is the beginning of society seriously discussing the issue of gay marriage," Bruce Liao, an associate professor of law at National Chengchi University and an expert witness, told reporters after the hearing. If the court rules in the favor of Nelson Chen and Kao Chih-wei, the couple that filed the court complaint, they will become the first same-sex couple to be legally married in Taiwan. Chang Hung-cheng, a part-time lecturer at National Taipei University of Technology who served as the other expert witness at the hearing, said that Article 982 of Taiwan's Civil Code does not clearly state that marriage is limited to a union between a man and a woman. Article 982 states that "a marriage shall be effected in writing, which requires the signatures of at least two witnesses, and by registration at the Household Administration Bureau." Chang added that discrimination based on an individual's sexual orientation is also against Article 7 of the Constitution of the Republic of China, which states that "all citizens of the ROC, irrespective of sex, religion, race, class, or party affiliation, shall be equal before the law." Nelson Chen said he thinks the basis for marriage should be love instead of the sex of the individuals. Chen said prohibiting gays from marrying is discrimination and a violation of their human rights. The court announced that a ruling will be issued Dec. 20. Chen and Kao filed a complaint with the Taipei High Administrative Court earlier this year after their efforts to be legally married were rejected by the authorities. The couple held a public wedding banquet in 2006, but their application to register as "husband and wife" in August last year was rejected by a district household registration office. They then took their case to the Taipei city government, which also rejected their appeal late last year, prompting them to take legal action. The first court hearing was held in April. The Zhongshan District Household Registration Office, the defendant in the case, said it respects and supports the decision of the couple to take the issue to court. The spokeswoman of the office, who asked not to be named, told CNA her office recognizes the diversity of family forms in today's society, but as an administrative body it can only act according to the law. She said her office informed the Taipei government's Department of Civil Affairs of the couple's request to register as a married couple in August last year. The department then informed the Ministry of the Interior of the request and the ministry responded in September that year with an interpretation from the Ministry of Justice that said marriage, as stipulated under Taiwan's Civil Code, refers to the legal binding relationship between a man and a woman who intend to live together for life, she said. According to the Ministry of Justice, the issue of whether same-sex couples are allowed to form families is still being studied. In response to the case, Wu Fu-pin, president of the National Alliance of Parents Organization, which consists of 38 parent groups around Taiwan, told CNA on Tuesday that homosexual rights have been improving around the world and his organization "does not oppose homosexual people pursuing their own rights." Meanwhile, local pastor Chang Mao-sung, who has openly opposed same-sex marriage, said through his secretary that the couple's actions are against his church's belief, but he "respects the couple's decision." Rainbow 7, the Taiwan branch of Exodus International, a Christian group that advocates the mobilization of Christian beliefs in a "world impacted by homosexuality," declined to be interviewed by CNA. Around 50 people showed up to observe the hearing on Thursday, prompting the court to move its hearing to a larger court room to accommodate the larger-than-expected crowd. (By Christie Chen)
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