Letter From the Editor: Dear Taiwan
This morning, I woke up to the news that Taiwan became the first country in Asia to legalize gay marriage, and I was elated. As I scanned the headlines regarding this groundbreaking new legislation, I felt so proud to be Taiwanese. And while this particular bill has passed, I can’t help feel a tangle of emotions regarding peripheral matters that weigh down this happy news.
It’s been a difficult struggle in Taiwan for this right that allows all human beings to marry, and like many other struggles for civil rights, it’s been one step forward and two steps back. Despite the Constitutional Court ruling that same-sex couples have the right to marry in May 24, 2017, the Taiwanese electorate voted down changing the civil code that would allow gay couples to wed in November 2018. Despite the referendum vote, the government pushed ahead to draw up a bill to legalize gay marriage. The bill was passed today May 17, and will go into effect on May 24. President Tsai Ing-wen tweeted after the passing, “Good morning #Taiwan. Today we have a change to make history & show the world that progressive values can take root in an East Asian society. Today we can show the world that #LoveWins.”
And while I could not be prouder for Taiwan’s landmark ruling, the bill is not yet perfect. It affords same-sex couples nearly the same rights as heterosexual couples, which simply isn’t good enough. With the passing of this bill, gay couples may adopt, but only if the child in question is related to one of them. It’s a reminder that while the battle has been won, the war is ongoing.
Additionally, when scanning through the news sites, I realize that despite Taiwan’s rightful title as a beacon of progressivism in Asia and the countless ebullient headlines being reported by global news entities, the wordings have been careful to never declare Taiwan a country. New York Times sidesteps the tricky wording by crediting Taiwan Legislature for the passing of the law. The Guardian includes “country” in the URL of their article, but the word has been top-edited out of the headline by a cautious editor. Reuters headline reads “In first for Asia, Taiwan lawmakers back same-sex marriage.” Meanwhile, in the lede of CNN’s post, they write Taiwan is a “self-ruled island the first place in Asia to pass gay marriage legislation.”
If you don’t know about Taiwan’s decades long struggles for autonomy under the growing tension and political pressure from the increasingly influential China, you should read this beautifully written piece by Isabelle Steger for Quartz titled “The unbearable sadness of being Taiwan, a liberal island other democracies refuse to talk to.”
And as thrilled as I am to hear about the freedom of all Taiwanese citizens to marry those they love, the recent series of legislation that have been cropping in Georgia and Alabama that strip away a woman’s rights over her own body is a terrifying reminder that these freedoms we have are tenuous. They are shaky and unsettled, and to have a world where we keep our liberties, we must take action. We must speak up, change minds.
But to keep up the fight, we have to celebrate our wins. So today, we celebrate Taiwan. Cheers to that beautiful democratic island on the Pacific. My heart is with you today.