November 26, 2018 / 10:56 AM / 18 days ago

Taiwan LGBT+ groups mull legal challenge after gay marriage referendum rejection

KUALA LUMPUR (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Gay rights activists in Taiwan said on Monday that they were considering mounting a legal challenge after voters rejected legalizing same-sex marriage in a referendum.

More than two-thirds of those who voted in a referendum on Saturday endorsed the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman, dealing a blow to Taiwan’s reputation as a beacon of liberalism in Asia.

The referendum took place despite a 2017 constitutional court ruling that same-sex couples had the right to legally marry. It was Asia’s first such ruling, and it set a two-year deadline for legalization.

“We’re disappointed but not surprised with the result due to the misinformation that was spread by our opponents against LGBT people in the run-up to the vote,” said Jennifer Lu, of the Marriage Equality Coalition Taiwan.

The coalition - an alliance of groups that support same-sex marriage - has received 2,000 reports of irregularities, including allegations of campaigning in restricted areas on polling day, Lu said.

“We’re studying complaints related to Saturday’s voting and we would use that to consider our next step... including possible legal action,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from the capital Taipei.

But the Coalition for the Happiness of Our Next Generation, which petitioned for the anti-gay marriage referendum bid, said such complaints have “no basis at all”.

“This is a victory of family values. It is a clear victory, so everyone should accept the results,” the group’s president, Tseng Hsien-ying, said by phone.

The Nov. 24 referendum, which coincided with local elections for mayors and magistrates, included four questions related to same-sex marriage - two for and two against.

Voters endorsed the questions against same-sex marriage, as well as a fifth question about rolling back mandatory gender equality education in schools.

Following the results, Taiwan cabinet spokeswoman Kolas Yotaka said a special law will be drafted for marriage equality.

Rights activists have said a special law for same sex couples - similar to a civil partnership - would be discriminatory, and they have argued that the referendum was illegal.

President Tsai Ing-wen said this year that society is still divided on same-sex marriage, although she campaigned on a promise of marriage equality in the run up to 2016 polls.

Reporting by Beh Lih Yi @behlihyi; Editing by Jared Ferrie. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit news.trust.org

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