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Taiwan health official touts gay marriage after lesbians wed

BY NATASHA BARSOTTI – In an Aug 20 Facebook posting, the deputy director-general of Taiwan’s Centers for Disease Control (CDC) came out in support of same-sex marriage, Focus Taiwan News Channel says.

The report says Shih Wen-yi advocated the legalization of gay marriage from a public health standpoint, saying it could limit dangerous sexual behaviour, control the spread of HIV and AIDS, and reduce expenditure for the treatment of HIV/AIDS.

Gay Star News reports Shih as saying that society has let down the gay community for too long and that he hopes a discussion about same-sex marriage will lead lawmakers and the public to respect minorities. 

Shih’s views prompted his employer to issue a statement of “clarification” that any support for gay marriage was entirely his. But Gay Star News says it is Shih’s belief that there are “presumably many officials who want to let gays tie the knot, but unable to have a stance that satisfies everyone, they choose to say nothing at all.”

Shih’s statements follow the recent marriage of two women from Taipei in the country’s first gay Buddhist wedding ceremony. Gay marriage still has no legal status in Taiwan, but challenges to the law are slowly making their way through the courts, Xtra’s Niko Bell notes in an Aug 13 report. 

After filing a court complaint earlier this year, a gay man and his partner will make their case in favour of same-sex marriage before three judges in September. The couple, Nelson Chen and Kao Chih-wei, who held a public wedding banquet in 2006, attempted to register as a married couple in August last year, but their application was rejected, Taipei Times reports. The Taipei city government also turned down their appeal, which led them to seek legal recourse.

The couple’s lawyer feels the law is on the couple’s side, saying there are “no clear clauses in Taiwan’s constitution or in the legal code that say explicitly that same-sex couples are prohibited from being legally married,” according to the Times.

Chen reportedly spoke with the CDC’s Shih about his health-based argument in support of gay marriage, pointing out that legalized heterosexual unions have not prevented STDs or stopped people from having sex outside of marriage. Chen called, instead, for better STD prevention policies, Gay Star News says.

Landing image: taiwaninfo.nat.gov.tw

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