July 1st 2017


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COVER STORY 'Safe Schools' and every school's duty of care

CANBERRA OBSERVED Catholic education: not gone but Gonski'd

EDITORIAL Oh dear, Prime Minister, Brexit is harder now

ELECTRICITY Blueprint author did not ask about the weather

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Call for referendum after Taiwan court backs same-sex marriage

EUTHANASIA Death-dealing bills break out like hydras' heads

GENDER POLITICS New breed of young women takes on the United Nations

CULTURE AND HISTORY The past is a foreign country

LITERATURE The Road to Wigan Pier and the roads beyond

AUSTRALIAN HISTORY The 'Brisbane line' and other scandals

MUSIC Carla Bley: sophisticated lady

CINEMA Churchill: The regrets of a Lear

BOOK REVIEW Charting 15 years of changing emphases

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GENDER POLITICS The Pied Pipers of gender dysphoria

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FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Call for referendum after Taiwan court backs same-sex marriage


by Peter Westmore

News Weekly, July 1, 2017

Pro-family organisations in Taiwan have initiated two referendum proposals, following the decision of Taiwan’s Constitutional Court to declare that the country’s existing marriage law is unconstitutional.

The Constitutional Court ruled that defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman was unconstitutional, as it did not allow marriage between people of the same sex.

It gave the country’s legislature two years to amend the existing law, and said that if the law was not changed, same-sex marriages would be regarded as legal.

However, family organisations in Taiwan – which organised mass rallies in defence of marriage in 2016 – have declared that they will seek to put the matter to a referendum of the people of the country.

The Happiness of the Next Generation Alliance said major issues such as marriage and family values should not be decided by “judicial elites” but rather should be put to a national referendum.

In addition to the referendum on the definition of marriage, the alliance is also seeking the exclusion of same-sex topics from the school curriculum, up to Year-9 level.

Signatures

Under Taiwan law, a referendum proposal first has to be signed by at least 0.5 per cent of the eligible voters in the most recent presidential election, which puts the threshold at about 94,000 signatures at this time.

The next step involves approval by a ministerial-level Referendum Review Committee, then it must be signed by at least 5 per cent of the electorate before it can be put to a referendum.

This should be possible, as at least 200,000 people attended a mass rally in 2016 in support of the present legal definition of marriage.

The Taiwanese Constitutional Court ruling followed the American precedent, where the U.S. Supreme Court, not the people, legalised same-sex marriage.

In its decision, the Taiwanese Court said that under Article 7 of the Constitution, “All citizens of the Republic of China, irrespective of sex, religion, race, class, or party affiliation, shall be equal before the law”.

It ruled that the five classifications of impermissible discrimination set forth in the article are “only exemplified, neither enumerated nor exhausted”.

“Therefore, different treatment based on other classifications, such as disability or sexual orientation, shall also be governed by the right to equality under the said article.”

The Court ruled that: “Creation of a permanent union of intimate and exclusive nature for the committed purpose of managing a life together by two persons of the same sex will not affect the application of the Marriage Chapter to the union of two persons of the opposite sex.

“Nor will it alter the social order established upon the existing opposite-sex marriage. Furthermore, the freedom of marriage for two persons of the same sex, once legally recognised, will constitute the collective basis, together with opposite-sex marriage, for a stable society.”

These conclusions are contested by pro-family organisations. Their petition asks people to request that the following question be put to the people: Do you agree that marriage should be limited to the union of one man and one woman?

Not surprisingly, the pro-family organisations have been roundly attacked in the Western media, though they have strong support in Taiwan.

Some people have expressed surprise that any Asian country should endorse same-sex marriage, given the very strong support for marriage and family in traditional Asian societies.

While this is true, Taiwan more than other countries has been deeply influenced by American, and particularly Californian, culture, which is the centre of the gay rights movement.

Hundreds of thousands of young Taiwanese students have studied in the United States, particularly in California, where university places in electronics and engineering are highly prized.

The result is that there is a strong and assertive gay subculture in Taiwan.

Taiwan’s transition to full democracy over the past 20 years has given the homosexual lobby the opportunity to make gay rights a political issue.

The centre-left Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has adopted gay rights as policy. The DPP was founded to fight for human rights against the Kuomintang (Chinese Nationalist Party). It is also identified as the party that wants formal independence from Beijing.

In 2016, after many years in opposition, the DPP won a majority of seats in Taiwan’s parliament, as well as the post of President.

Late last year, legislation was introduced into the parliament to revise the marriage code to permit same-sex marriage, but it faced widespread public opposition, with rallies in major cities.

The court decision in favour of same-sex marriage occurred independently of the government-sponsored initiative, but the two processes – one legislative and the other legal – reinforced the push for same-sex marriage.

The first test for the opposition will be to collect enough signatures to begin the process of securing a referendum.




























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