Referendum setback leaves push for same-sex marriage in doubt

People queue to cast their votes at a polling station during local elections and a referendum on same-sex marriage, in Kaohsiung, Taiwan on Nov 24, 2018.
People queue to cast their votes at a polling station during local elections and a referendum on same-sex marriage, in Kaohsiung, Taiwan on Nov 24, 2018. PHOTO: REUTERS

TAIPEI • Taiwanese voters have delivered a clear rejection of efforts to make the island the first place in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage.

In a series of referendums on Saturday, the public overwhelmingly backed proposals seeking to limit the right of homosexual couples to marry, and to restrict education of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) issues in schools.

The results came despite Taiwan's top court ruling in May last year that civil law restrictions barring homosexual couples from marrying were unconstitutional.

More than 7.5 million people voted in favour of defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman, while fewer than three million were opposed, according to data on the Taiwan Central Election Commission's website.

A proposal to ban education about LGBT issues in elementary and middle schools won by a similar margin.

"Support for our referendums was higher than we had expected, suggesting the majority of people don't agree with legal changes to the marriage system," said Mr Yu Hsin-yi of the pro-family group, Coalition of the Happiness of our Next Generation. "We don't oppose rules for same-sex couples to live together. We just reject changes to marriage," he added.

 
 
 

Voters rejected by a narrower margin the bid to change the name that athletes compete under in international competitions to "Taiwan" from "Chinese Taipei". A total of 5.8 million were against it, while 4.8 million were in favour of it.

Under the terms of the referendums, the government is obliged to take concrete steps to realise the results of the votes.

Taiwanese voters delivered a resounding defeat to President Tsai Ing-wen's party in local elections held on the same day, ousting it from several key strongholds.

Taiwan's constitutional court had ruled in May last year that the island's laws must be changed to allow gay marriage, paving the way for it to become the first place in Asia to guarantee the right.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 26, 2018, with the headline 'Referendum setback leaves push for same-sex marriage in doubt'. Print Edition | Subscribe