Gay advocacy groups say that results of an evaluation conducted on Taipei’s mayoral candidates show all three of them lack concrete policies on promoting gay rights.
Independent candidate Neil Peng was seen as the only candidate to have a positive attitude towards gay people because on a scale ranging from 3 to minus-3 points, Peng received the highest score at 1.5 points. He was followed by independent candidate Ko Wen-je at minus-1. The Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) Sean Lien trailed last with minus-3 points, according totaipeitimes.com.
Taiwan is preparing to hold local mayoral and other local elections on November 29.
Victoria Hsu, a lawyer and executive director of the Taiwan Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership Rights, said Peng’s early work as a screenwriter helped raise his awareness of the gay community.
However, Hsu condemned Peng’s recent demand that President Ma Ying-jeou and National Security Council Secretary-General King Pu-tsung “come out” as a couple.
“No one has the right, ever, to demand that a gay person come out, considering the institutional pressure that gays and lesbians endure,” Hsu told taipeitimes.com.
Many advocates have also criticized Lien’s repeated refusals to take a stance on gay marriage. Lien has refused to make any comment on the issue of same-sex marriage beyond saying it is “very complicated.”
“When Lien treats gays and lesbians as something to be shied away from, as something that cannot be discussed, this kind of evasive silence only acts as an accomplice to homophobia in our society,” Hsu said.
Ko on the other hand initially made insensitive remarks about the gay community, but has improved over the course of the election campaign, Hsu said.
“Ko has recently stated his belief that gay marriage is a question of basic human rights. However, we would like to know whether he proposes to establish a special article for same-sex couples or make fundamental amendments to civil law,” Hsu said.
Chang Ming-hsu, convener of student group Gay & Lesbian Awakening Day, said although Taipei was the first city in Asia to provide public funding for an annual gay pride event, not much has been done for equality laws.
Hsu said policies at the municipal level could aid in ensuring the rights of gays and lesbians as the city could allow the registration of relationship status between same-sex couples, useful in the case of signing medical papers or receiving mail or allowing its employees marital related leave.
Marriage between same-sex couples is not legally recognized in Taiwan, although 3.5 to 5 percent or at least 1.2 million of the 23.4 million people in Taiwan identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
However, there is stiff opposition to marriage equality laws, as seen in last year’s rally against revising Article 972 of the Civil Code to change the term “man and woman” to “two parties” in the article concerning marriage and the term “father and mother” to “parents” in the Civil Code.