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Taiwan poll on same-sex marriage flawed

TAIPEI (UCAN): An opinion poll sponsored by the Taiwan Ministry of Justice on granting marriage rights to same-sex attracted couples has drawn thousands of positive responses since it was launched in early August.

However, the organisation of the poll has also been criticised for not being able to canvas popular opinion accurately enough to use as a basis for any type of legislation, let alone something as basic as changing the understanding of marriage.

More than 27,000 people, representing 70 per cent of respondents, have voted in favour of legalising marriage for the same-sex attracted since the 90-day poll was posted on August 3.

The three questions asked are, “Do you agree to implementing a same-sex marriage law,” “Do you agree to implementing a same-sex partnership law” and “Do you agree to giving homosexuals a relationship that’s similar to a marriage or marriage through legislation to protect their rights and legal status?”

Taipei legislators have been drafting same-sex marriage bills in the wake of a United States of America Supreme Court decision that legalised same-sex marriage in every state. Should the bills pass, Taiwan would be the first in Asia to institute a marriage law for the same-sex attracted.

While the response has been heavily in favour of legalisation, some voters say loopholes in the online poll paint an inaccurate picture.

Father Otfried Chan, secretary-general of the Chinese Regional Bishops’ Conference, said that he doubts whether the poll could fully reflect the opinions of Taiwanese people as no verification of citizenship is required. “So even foreigners can determine the future of Taiwan,” he said.

The poll requires only an email address or Facebook page to cast a vote.

“The poll is also unfair to the majority at the grassroots level, especially the elderly (people). We have many elderly Catholics who don’t know how to participate in an online poll,” the priest said.

Paul Chiu Ping-cheng, a 35-year-old Catholic, said the poll results could easily be manipulated as you can vote repeatedly with different accounts. “And for those who are working in China, they may not be able to participate in the voting due to the Great Firewall,” he added.

Both Chiu and Father Chan said they feel the poll is just an appeasing act by the government in the run up to the 2016 presidential elections.

“The government wants to show the public that they have done something,” Chiu, who thinks that a referendum should take place instead, said. “The same-sex marriage campaigners know they will lose in a referendum and thus prefer running an online poll,” he added.

Hang Yi-chen, a 24-year-old bisexual, said she too was skeptical about the poll.

“No one knows how the Justice Ministry will use the result. I will oppose it if it is used for formulating policy. A human rights issue should not be determined by voting,” she commented.

“It should not design simple yes or no answers even if it is for collecting opinions,” she added.

Hang also criticised the questions saying they were ambiguously written and thus confusing. “Even many in the LGBT (Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) group misunderstood (whether) the ministry is to formulate a separate law for same-sex marriage, which we see as more discriminating,” she said, noting, “What we want is an amendment to the civil law.”

A Catholic student leader, who is sympathetic to the issue, also worried about representation in the poll.

“The voting should be for Taiwan citizens only. The other voices do not represent us,” the student leader, who identified herself only as Xiao-Peng, said.


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