Taiwan accepts same-sex marriage, so why not adoption?

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7/1/22

Wang Chen-wei and Chen Jun-ru are unique among parents in Taiwan. This year, in a landmark legal case, the two men became the first same-sex couple on the island to legally adopt a child neither of them are related to. Now they’re living their family dream with daughter Joujou, 4, in the southern city of Kaohsiung, in an apartment decorated with rainbow flags and family photos. Yet, while their family life is happy, their hard-fought court victory is bittersweet. While the court made an exception for the couple, the law they challenged remains on the statute books and continues to restrict the civil liberties of other same-sex couples — staining, they say, the island’s reputation as one of Asia’s most progressive jurisdictions when it comes to LGBTQ rights. “We can’t be too happy about our victory, because a lot of our friends are still facing many difficulties,” said Chen, 35. “Even after same-sex marriage was legalized, we did not feel welcome to have children together as a family,” added Wang, 38. “We were treated like second-class citizens.” While Taiwan in 2019 became the first jurisdiction in the region to legalize same-sex marriage, the legal change stopped short of granting full rights of adoption to homosexual couples. That has created a strange loophole in which heterosexual couples — and single people of all sexual orientations — are allowed to adopt children to whom they are not biologically related, but same-sex couples aren’t. To this day, Wang and Chen remain the only same-sex married couple on the island to have done so. Activists say this loophole shows that despite the strides Taiwan has made in recognizing LGBTQ rights, the island has a long way to go before same-sex couples have true equality. The adoption loophole is not the only problem left over from 2019. The legal change also failed to grant full recognition to same-sex transnational marriages; foreign spouses are recognized only if same-sex marriage is also legal in their home jurisdiction. Freddy Lim, an independent member of parliament in Taiwan who advocates for LGBTQ rights, said the loophole arose because at the time the law was changed, society still “faced a lot of opposition from anti-LGBTQ groups,” so the government focused “only on legalizing marriage, but not rights relating to child adoption.” However, Lim believes that since then attitudes have changed sufficiently for the law to change again. In May, Lim and a bipartisan group of lawmakers proposed updating the law with a bill he hopes can be passed by the end of the year. “If a society treats people differently based on their sexual orientation, it must have a strong reason out of the public interest. But there is none, so it is clearly a form of discrimination,” Lim said.

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