Introduction to the History and Organization of the Taiwan Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership Rights
The Taiwan Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership Rights （TAPCPR）was established in 2009. The Alliance was formed by a number of groups advocating equality of gender and sexual orientation, in concert with many other individual activists for equality. The TAPCPR was officially registered with Taiwan’s Ministry of the Interior in August of 2012. We recognize that in Taiwan, the understanding of intimate relationships under the current legal regime is almost strictly limited to the concept of heterosexual marriage. However, there is an ongoing lack of understanding and legal protection for other types of families or intimate relationships. Therefore, the TAPCPR has taken the initiative in proposing the first draft amendment to the Civil Code in connection with “same-sex marriage, civil partnerships, and multiple-person families” in the hopes that all types of intimate relationships and families currently existing in society will receive protection under the law.
In observing contemporary society in Taiwan, we realize that while in practice the combinations and forms of intimate relationships are already very diverse, the legal concept of marriage has remained exceptionally rigid, utterly failing to address the many types and needs of diverse families. According to statistics, less than 50% of the families in Taiwan today conform to the traditional image of the nuclear family. Heterosexual couples who choose to live together without getting married, homosexual couples in long-term stable relationships who are unable to obtain the legal effects of marriage, and groups of friends who choose to live together and take care of one another as a family are all forms of diverse contemporary intimate relationships. Our laws and regulations, though, remain stuck in the traditional heterosexual concept of “one husband one wife” form of a married household. The connotations of the law also maintain a conservative ethics regarding intimacy and sex. With regard to the citizens outside the framework of married couples as provided in the Civil Code, it could be said that Taiwan’s social system excludes them and disregards their rights.
While the lack of protection for the rights of couples may not constitute an immediate harm, people who are living outside the system of marriage must regularly use many private methods to resolve the risks posed by this lack of protection. For example, if an individual in a homosexual couple wants to set her or his partner as the beneficiary of an insurance policy, she or he must privately look for a friendly insurance agent, or else the likelihood of being rejected by the insurance company will increase considerably. Thus, at the end of 2008, the Awakening Foundation invited other LGBT and Gender-related organizations to hold a meeting at which they discussed possible directions for promoting civil partnership rights.
After more than half a year of monthly meetings, the Taiwan Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership Rights was formally established at the end of 2009 by the Awakening Foundation, the Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline Association, the Tong-Kwang Light House Presbyterian Church and other gender organizations as well as many passionate individual citizens. The Taiwan Adolescent Association on Sexualities joined us in October 2011. We have come together on the following goals: social relationships that are not currently protected under the law, but which we believe should be protected, regardless of whether this social relationship is a couple formed by two people in an intimate relationship, or multiple-person relationship, or a close relationship among friends, they are all within the scope of our discussion and our initiative.
In 2010, the TAPCPR achieved a further consensus: a civil partnership law and same-sex marriage must be promoted together, they should not be separated into first and second priorities, or intermediate and long-term objectives. We believe that regardless of sexuality, everyone should have the protection of two (or more) social systems. In other words, marriage and civil partnerships are two different systems, and both should be openly available to people regardless of sexuality.
In addition, there is a simple reason why the TAPCPR has not chosen to fight separately for each individual right (e.g., medical, insurance). After researching these issues, we realized that the problems regarding medical and insurance rights stem from the fact that under the current legal system “unmarried couples” are unable to obtain qualifications under the laws and regulations governing identity. We thus confirmed and resolved that we must discuss and promote a system of civil partnership, which will resolve the root of the problem under the laws and regulations governing identity and allow for protection of needs including medical and insurance needs.
The TAPCPR’s legislative initiatives will continue to challenge the role the country should play in the intimate relations and family lives of individuals. Over the past two years, we have in September 2011 released the first draft revisions to the Civil Code (including a civil partnership system, a system of multiple-person families and an adoption system). We will also release a draft revision to the Civil Code to provide for same sex marriage on 31 July 2012. In other words, we will promote the systems of forming families at the same time: same sex marriage, civil partnership without an restrictions as to the gender or sexual orientation of the partners, and a multiple person family system, using these concrete legislative bills to engage in a more extensive dialogue with society, to promote democratic intimate relationships, and to ensure that different forms of families are all given equal and appropriate protection under the law.
( Translated by Peter Dernbach and Mark McVicar)