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Taiwan voters reject same-sex marriage in referendum

  • 24 November 2018

A same-sex marriage supporter in Taiwan cries after Saturday's referendums in Taiwan. Photo: 24 November 2018Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Same-sex marriages supporters reacted as it became clear that they lost the vote

Taiwan has rejected same-sex marriages, in a blow to the island’s reputation as a rights trailblazer in Asia.

The results in referendums come despite a high court ruling in March 2017 in favour of such unions.

The court also gave parliament two years to amend laws or pass new ones. It is unclear how Saturday’s voting will affect legislation.

Meanwhile, President Tsai Ing-wen quit as leader of Taiwan’s governing party after defeats in local elections.

Her pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is set to lose more than half of the 13 cities and counties it won in 2014, Taiwanese media report.

Taiwan’s relations with China have deteriorated since Ms Tsai came to power in 2016.

Beijing has refused to deal with her because she does not recognise an agreement reached between the two sides in 1992 that both sides are part of one China.

What were voters asked about same-sex marriage?

The marriage issue was actually the subject of three separate referendums on Saturday, which were put forward by rival camps.

Conservative groups asked whether the legislation – defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman in Taiwan’s Civil Code – should remain unchanged, while LGBT activists demanded equal marriage rights.

Initial results suggest the conservatives received overwhelming support, while gay rights activists failed.

The government earlier said Saturday’s referendums would not affect it bringing in the changes required by the court ruling. The authorities are now expected to pass a special law, without amending the Civil Code.

But campaigners fear the eventual legislation will be weaker.

One possible outcome could be that gay couples are given legal protection – but not allowed to get married, correspondents say.

What about President Tsai’s move?

At a news conference, she admitted that the DPP suffered a series of defeats in key local elections.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption President Tsai Ing-wen (centre): “We let down all our supporters”

“Our efforts weren’t enough and we let down all our supporters,” the president said.

Meanwhile the China-friendly former ruling party KMT made a dramatic comeback, winning 15 of the 22 cities and counties in Taiwan.

Nearly 21,000 candidates were vying for 11,000 elected positions, from mayors to city councillors and township chiefs.

A simple question of good relations

Analysis by Cindy Sui in Taipei

During campaigning, President Tsai and her administration accused China of meddling in the elections without providing hard evidence, often using the term fake news and promoting her party as protecting Taiwan’s democracy. As in previous elections it also tried to fuel fears about China.

In the end voters expressed dissatisfaction with her and her party, not only for the sluggish economy, continuing low wages and a wealth gap, but also the worsening of relations with China since she came into power in 2016.

The DPP’s core supporters are the 30% of Taiwanese who are adamant about independence and want it immediately.

But the majority of voters want to maintain the status quo – neither independence nor unification. They simply want good relations with China and peace and prosperity for Taiwan. If President Tsai and her party refuse to change course on China, they risk losing the presidency and their majority rule in parliament in the 2020 election.

BBC News – World

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