On Thursday, Kaohsiung’s City Government launched a long-waited “Sunny Registration” pilot project for same-sex couples. This new registration scheme allows same-sex couples to register their partnership in the municipal household registration system. However, it immediately faced questions when the first same-sex couple tried to register at Fungshan District’s household registration office early Thursday.
The female same-sex couple were accompanied by several LGBT rights groups. However, the couple declined to register, after learning that registration does not come with official documentation, or legal or welfare guarantees. According to the couple, they originally expected to gain recognition over their partnership through this registration, but the municipal policy failed to establish a well-rounded plan through discussions with LGBT rights groups. The registration not only lacks a paper-based search, but the registration paperwork also lacks the official stamp. They labeled it “an attempt that tries to console same-sex couples’ hearts but fails to let the sun shines into the closet.”
Although the first same-sex couple failed to benefit from the project, LGBT rights groups acknowledged the friendly attitude presented by the staff at Fungshan’s household registration office. They urged the Kaohsiung municipal government to reinforce public servants’ training, establish LGBT-friendly services, initiate cross-bureau workshops and more actively engage LGBT rights groups.
According to the Kaohsiung City Government, eight couples had successfully registered on the first day.
However, there are still serious doubts about the effect of the Sunny Registration project. Chen Chih-ming, a spokesman of Gay TW Rights, called the project a “registration inside the closet.” Chen said the project simply allows same-sex couples to leave information in the household registration system, but does not let any organizations or entities to apply for an official proof of the registration. In other words, it has no legal effect. He condemned the registration mere “comfort” offered by the Kaohsiung City Government, but doubt if same-sex couples really need it or not.
Chen also accused mayors of New Taipei City, Taichung City, Tainan City and Kaohsiung City of not granting same-sex couples the rights to participate in public municipal weddings held by city governments. He claimed that public weddings held by municipalities are simply channels for citizens to receive blessings from the government, but the four city governments seem unwilling to let same-sex couples take part.
Tseng Zhi-wen, director of Kaohsiung City Government’s civil affairs bureau, said it is a shame that same-sex couples and LGBT rights groups have doubts about Sunny Registration. She promised to help same-sex couples gain more legal support through the project. Tseng said Sunny Registration is supposed to be a friendly channel for same-sex couples to announce their partnership. When same-sex couples decide to register, the city government urges that they can sign an authorization agreement for when hospitals or other government agencies need relevant documents to proof the validity of their partnerships.
(Feature photo of Taipei’s 12th Annual Gay Pride Parade, by William Yang)