Court hears first gay marriage case after landmark interpretation

Taipei--The Taipei High Administrative Court on Wednesday became the first court in Taiwan to hear a same-sex marriage case since the country's Constitutional Court ruled in favor of such marriages in a landmark constitutional interpretation in May.

The case was brought by plaintiffs Fang Min (??) and Lin Yu-li (???), a lesbian couple seeking to have their marriage registered in Taiwan.

The couple tried to register their marriage at the Household Registration Office in Taipei's Zhongzheng District in 2014, but the office rejected their application at the time, arguing that Taiwan's Civil Code stipulates that marriage shall be between a man and a woman.

The couple brought their case to court in 2015, but it was suspended later that year to await the result of the constitutional interpretation on same-sex marriage.

The case was revived after the Constitutional Court issued the historic Interpretation No. 748 on May 24, ruling that the prohibition of same-sex marriage in the Civil Code violates the Constitution, and giving the Legislature two years to amend existing laws or pass new ones to protect the marriage rights of gay couples.

During Wednesday's court session, Judge Hung Yuan-liang (???) said the Zhongzheng household office's decision to reject Fang and Lin's marriage registration appears to have been illegal, given the result of the constitutional interpretation.

However, Hung said the question lies in whether an administrative court is in the position to demand that the office register the plaintiffs' marriage.

During the session, the judge asked if the defendant -- the Zhongzheng household office -- will consider revoking its decision, but representatives of the office said that even if the decision is revoked, they will still be unable to register same-sex marriage until the Legislature amends the law.

"Until the legalization of same-sex marriage is completed within two years, household offices lack the legal basis for registering (same-sex marriages)," the office wrote in its statement of defense in June.

Fang and Lin did not appear in court on Wednesday and were represented by their lawyers.

The judge said the court is expected to hold oral arguments on the case at the end of September.

After the court session, the plaintiffs' lawyers and members of the Taiwan Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership Rights held a press conference outside the court, in which they urged the court to issue a ruling that would allow gay couples to register their marriages.

"The Constitutional Court has clearly confirmed the unconstitutional nature of the Civil Code, so our request to the administrative court is very reasonable," said Victoria Hsu (???), one of the lawyers of the plaintiffs and president of the alliance.

"When a law is ruled to have violated the Constitution, judges should not make rulings based on that unconstitutional law, but should rule according to the intent of Interpretation No. 748 and give same-sex couples the freedom of marriage," she said.

Members of an anti-gay marriage group protested outside the court on Wednesday, shouting slogans and holding a white banner that read: "The court is not a show. The constitutional interpretation has no credibility."

The group, Tai Wan Gong Min Quan Tuan Jie Zu Zhi (?????????, literally "Taiwan Civil Rights Solidarity Organization") argued that lawmakers should be the ones making major policy changes and that the Constitutional Court had gone too far and stepped onto legislative turf.

Fang and Lin were among 30 same-sex couples who attempted to register their marriages at the Zhongzheng household office on Aug. 1, 2014, as part of a group action led by the Taiwan Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership Rights.

The office turned down all of their applications, and the alliance helped three of the couples file lawsuits against it. The three cases began to be heard in April, 2015, but were suspended later that year to await the results of a constitutional interpretation on a marriage case brought by gay rights activist Chi Chia-wei (???).

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel