Asia

Taiwan voters reject same-sex marriage in referendums

A same-sex marriage supporter in Taiwan cries after Saturday's referendums in Taiwan. Photo: 24 November 2018 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Same-sex marriage supporters reacted as it became clear that they lost the vote

Voters in Taiwan have rejected legalising same-sex marriages in a series of referendums on Saturday.

They backed the definition of marriage as the union of a man and woman.

Last year a high court had ruled in favour of same-sex unions, ordering legislation. The government has said it will still press on with new laws but they may now be weaker.

Meanwhile, President Tsai Ing-wen quit as leader of Taiwan's governing party after defeats in local elections.

Her pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lost more than half of the 13 cities and counties it won in 2014.

Taiwan's relations with China have deteriorated since Ms Tsai came to power in 2016.

Beijing has refused to deal with her because she does not recognise an agreement reached between the two sides in 1992 that both sides are part of one China.

What were voters asked about same-sex marriage?

The marriage issue was actually the subject of three separate referendums on Saturday, which were put forward by rival camps.

Conservative groups asked whether the current legislation - defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman in Taiwan's Civil Code - should remain unchanged, while LGBT activists asked for the marriage law to be amended to include same-sex couples.

Results showed voters backed the conservative "pro-family" groups.

The government had earlier said that Saturday's referendums would not affect it bringing in the changes required by the court ruling. The authorities are now expected to pass a special law, without amending the Civil Code.

But campaigners fear the eventual legislation will be weaker.

One possible outcome could be that gay couples are given legal protection - but not allowed to get married, correspondents say.

What about President Tsai's move?

At a news conference, she admitted that the DPP had suffered a series of defeats in key local elections.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption President Tsai Ing-wen (centre): "We let down all our supporters"

"Our efforts weren't enough and we let down all our supporters," the president said.

Meanwhile the China-friendly former ruling party KMT made a dramatic comeback, winning 15 of the 22 cities and counties in Taiwan.

Nearly 21,000 candidates were vying for 11,000 elected positions, from mayors to city councillors and township chiefs.

A simple question of good relations

Analysis by Cindy Sui in Taipei

During campaigning, President Tsai and her administration accused China of meddling in the elections without providing hard evidence, often using the term fake news and promoting her party as protecting Taiwan's democracy. As in previous elections it also tried to fuel fears about China.

In the end voters expressed dissatisfaction with her and her party, not only for the sluggish economy, continuing low wages and a wealth gap, but also the worsening of relations with China since she came into power in 2016.

The DPP's core supporters are the 30% of Taiwanese who are adamant about independence and want it immediately.

But the majority of voters want to maintain the status quo - neither independence nor unification. They simply want good relations with China and peace and prosperity for Taiwan. If President Tsai and her party refuse to change course on China, they risk losing the presidency and their majority rule in parliament in the 2020 election.

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