This is a guest post by Amy Hsieh, a former aide in the Taiwan legislature and a doctoral student in political science at George Washington University.
The same-sex couple who was about to become a test case for marriage rights in Taiwan’s top court has announced they will formally withdraw their case tomorrow. According to a press release, Nelson Chen and Kao Chih-wei will hold a press conference tomorrow afternoon and then submit their motion to the court. This comes just a week after the court postponed a decision until late February on sending the case up to the Constitutional Court for interpretation.
This decision is a real head-scratcher, since their justifications seem thin and it comes over the objections of their attorney. Chen—who does the public speaking for the couple—has said that he is worried about the safety of his family and friends after getting threats on Facebook. He also has cited dissatisfaction with the court’s handling of the case, but it’s unclear what he would have liked to see handled differently.
The couple’s own pro bono lawyer, Liu Chi-wei, had requested the judge to send the case up for constitutional interpretation. Now Chen has posted an apology to Liu for deciding to withdraw the suit and thanked him for his hard work over the past year.
Chen is now urging their supporters to now instead support the Task Force’s efforts to push for a bill on domestic partnership rights, with whom he previously clashed over whether to proceed with the case in the first place.
It’s not yet clear whether this move will actually end this landmark case in Taiwan’s LGBT history. According to Chen’s lawyers, technically the court can deny the request to withdraw the suit if the case is deemed to be in the public interest.
Chen has scheduled a full day of public activities for tomorrow on top of the press conference. He will have lunch with the first gay couple to openly marry in the central Taiwan city of Taichung, shop for clothes at a boutique in Taipei’s gay-friendly Red Theater district, and take a blood test for HIV. Al Jazeera reporters will be covering his itinerary.
This post is based on reporting by Amy Hsieh.
Is Taiwan’s LGBT movement pressuring a same-sex couple to drop their lawsuit for marriage recognition just as its set to go to the island’s top court?
The case of Nelson Chen and Kao Chih-wei took and unexpected turn this week just as an administrative court was convening a hearing to refer their suit to the Constitutional Court. According to media reports, Chen said that he “might” or “tentatively intends to” withdraw his case. At the time, he said this was because he wanted to spare his family the attacks that have been posted on their Facebook pages.
But there are hints that they may be getting pressure from inside the LGBT movement to drop the case because of fear that an unfavorable ruling could set the cause back. On Thursday, an umbrella group pushing for a same-sex partnership law in the island’s legislature, issued a statement refuting remarks Chen allegedly made saying he was being pushed to withdraw the case. The statement from the Taiwan Domestic Partnership Task Force said:
We have never asked Nelson to withdraw his suit. In fact, we support every individual who is willing to stand up for their rights. Even if the constitutional interpretation turns out to contravene our belief in equal rights…no one will nor should place blame on individuals who have been brave enough to take a stand.
It’s unclear how seriously the couple is threatening to withdraw–the language used in media reports about his hesitation is very peculiar. But Chen announced that he will hold a “withdrawal of lawsuit press conference” on January 23 in a post on his Facebook page, inexplicably pairing the announcement with a picture of a toilet bowl. Reading between the lines, this could be is a play for more time to iron out disagreement with other LGBT rights activists in Taiwan.
If there is intra-movement disagreement about moving the case to the Taiwan’s top court, that wouldn’t be unusual. In many countries where individuals or couples have pushed marriage cases, institutional gay rights organizations have opposed such lawsuits fearing they were premature.
A Taiwanese court punted Thursday on a case that could have created the first legal same-sex marriage in Asia, saying it would prepare to send it to the top court without issuing a ruling.
The dodge angered and disappointed LGBT activists.
“The judges showed no spine on this critical case. This could have become a milestone case for all Asia,” said Taiwanese LGBT rights advocate Chi Chia-wei.
The legal proceedings for a constitutional interpretation would take up to a year, according to Huang Kuo-cheng, one of the pro bono lawyers for the couple in this case, Chen Ching-hsueh and Kao Chih-wei.
This is a guest post by Amy Hsieh, a doctoral student of political science at The George Washington University and a former aide to Taiwanese lawmaker Bi-khim Hsiao.