Australia could soon become the world’s 25th country to legalize marriage equality after the result of its national postal survey shows that 61.6% of Australians support marriage equality. Australia’s prime minister Malcolm Turnbull showed his commitment to respect the public’s will by promising to pass it through the parliament before Christmas.

Comparing to Turnbull’s clear commitment to see marriage equality through Australia’s parliament, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen has not yet set a clear deadline for Taiwan’s legislature to sign marriage equality into law, nor has she indicated any intent to do so.

It has been six months since Taiwan’s constitutional court handed down the ruling that mandated a two year timeframe for the legislature to legalize marriage equality. Yet, there is no sign that either the legislature or the Executive Yuan will reinitiate discussion on marriage equality anytime soon. The Executive Yuan has not proposed any versions of a draft bill on marriage equality, and it looks unlikely for the legislature to begin the multiparty negotiation process on the versions that do exist. Even though Premier William Lai has offered diplomatic promises on several occasions, the central government has yet to offer a clear timeline for its plan to complete the legalization of marriage equality.

“I won’t give up on submitting the Executive Yuan’s version of the draft bill on marriage equality to the legislature before the end of this legislative session,” said Lai in a Facebook post on October 28th. “I support that people who love each other should have the right to be together.”

Such diplomatic yet non-committal responses have been all what the Tsai administration can offer when being confronted about their estimated timeline of legalizing marriage equality. Since assuming the role of Taiwan’s Premier in September, Lai has constantly gone back and forth with his responses to questions related to the legalization of marriage equality. From “we will keep working hard” to “we won’t give up trying before the end of this year,” Lai’s languages reflect his inability to firmly commit to a specific time frame, making him sound more like an embattled politician frantically trying to dodge bullets instead of a man who is ready to make the last push for helping same-sex couples achieve marriage equality.

One way to end the current stalemate is for President Tsai Ing-wen to show a strong and clear commitment to legalize marriage equality, for example, in a formal press conference or in a policy directive. As the leader of Taiwan and the ruling party, her attitude towards the issue will have an immense impact on how all parties that are currently involved in the legislative process will act accordingly.

However, her unwillingness to take a clear stance on the issue since becoming president last May has seen her support in the LGBTQ community plummet, and suspicions about her real intention to show support for marriage equality during the presidential election in 2015 also begin to surface. As a gay man, I can’t stop but wonder if she used the issue merely as a bargaining chip for the advancement of her own political career, and in order not to jeopardize her support among conservative DPP supporters, she may be willing to backtrack on her commitment to support marriage equality.

Such people-pleasing behavior may save her from losing the support from traditional DPP supporters, but there is a bigger political price to pay. The support that she won over by publicly siding with marriage equality can soon go to smaller parties such as the New Power Party and Social Democratic Party, both of which have been actively working alongside the pro-marriage equality groups to put pressure on President Tsai and her administration. While she may afford to lose those support and still win the reelection in 2020, her image and reputation as a politician will be negatively affected.

With Australia likely to officially legalize marriage equality in the next few weeks, all eyes in Taiwan will be on President Tsai Ing-wen and whether she will take any firm action to help legalize marriage equality in the near future. She has two options in front of her: continue to be a people pleaser or be a woman of her words. So what do you say, President Tsai?

(Feature photo by Chieh-Ting Yeh)


William Yang

William is a freelance writer and photographer based in Taiwan, with a passion for human rights and storytelling. He holds a Master of Journalism degree from Temple University, and has extensive experiences interning at global NGOs such as Human Rights Watch and Mercy Corps.