An Antigay Assault Threatens Marriage Equality in Taiwan

Evan Wolfson Taiwan TKTK

If you thought the National Organization for Marriage and other such groups disappeared once we won the freedom to marry in 2015, think again.

You heard me: The discredited opponents we beat here are now targeting other countries with their fear-mongering and outside funding — part of the global instability and assault on democracy we all see around the world. In cahoots with autocrats like Vladimir Putin and hardline religious hierarchies, they are opportunistically exporting their harmful agenda across the globe — from Eastern European countries like Romania to Latin American countries like Guatemala and now countries in Asia.

One major battleground in this struggle for human rights right now is Taiwan.

In May of 2017, Taiwan’s Constitutional Court issued a landmark ruling affirming that same-sex couples are guaranteed the freedom to marry under the Constitution — mandating that the Legislative Yuan update marriage laws to allow same-sex couples to begin legally marrying by May 2019.

The ruling made headlines around the world, marking the most significant step toward winning marriage for same-sex couples anywhere in Asia. And it solidified Taiwan’s role as a beacon of faith and hope in the region — showing what’s possible in a country that embraces democratic ideals of freedom and human rights.

But what the headlines didn’t capture is that this fight is far from over.

In the months leading up to the Constitutional Court ruling and immediately after, global anti-LGBT forces — instigated by NOM’s Brian Brown and others — targeted their efforts on Taiwan.

They’ve infused millions of dollars into a national smear campaign, using the same Proposition 8–style playbook that we overcame time and time again in the U.S. — filled with lies and falsehoods about who gay and lesbian couples are — all in an effort to scare voters and pressure elected officials into disregarding the Constitutional Court’s ruling.

Now they’ve forced three measures onto the November 24 ballot — two that aim to block or limit the freedom to marry for same-sex couples and a third that rolls back LGBT-inclusive portions of the Gender Equity Education Act, which ensures that all Taiwanese students learn respect and empathy for each other, including their gay and lesbian classmates. Not content with working to keep couples apart, they’ve stooped to making life more difficult for the most vulnerable youth in Taiwan.

A threat to human rights anywhere is a threat everywhere — and we cannot sit by and let these forces target other people, other families, in other countries with their corrosive attacks.

This November, Taiwan will be on the front lines of the worldwide battle for love. If voters reject the three proposed measures, it will send a powerful message to Taiwan’s youth, and throughout Asia. Taiwan will go on to become the first country in Asia where same-sex couples can marry. And the good news is: I believe wholeheartedly that our side can win.

Local activists in Taiwan have already launched a strong “vote no” campaign — centered on elevating the stories of same-sex couples and allies, and recruiting thousands of volunteers to mobilize voters across the country to say no to perpetuating discrimination in marriage. And as their Irish-American and Australian-American counterparts did when marriage was on the ballot in their ancestral lands, now Taiwanese-Americans have the chance to support the campaign, donate funds, and reach out to  their friends and relatives and urge them to vote no on the ballot measures.

The rest of us can also make a difference if we act now.

The campaign has a smart plan in place and is ready to plaster the airwaves with strong, compelling ads that make the case for the freedom to marry. It is working to reach and encourage people to vote for love and unity rather than succumb to scapegoating and fear. We know how to beat the opponents’ playbook — but a winning campaign requires fuel. The Taiwanese team needs more resources to match the opponents’ outside funding and church infrastructures.

We didn’t let NOM’s agenda of fear and deceit win here — and we won’t let it win in Taiwan either. Human rights are universal, and even from thousands of miles away on the other side of the globe, each of us can step up to help our friends in Taiwan secure a watershed freedom to marry victory for the global LGBT movement.

Want to win in November? Please join us now. We’ve made it easy for fair-minded people in the U.S .and other countries — including Taiwanese-Americans — to show Taiwan that we stand with them in this historic fight. Click here to give whatever you can to ensure a first-of-its-kind victory in Asia that will accelerate the advancement of LGBT human rights across the globe — and 100 percent of every donation will go to the work on the ground.

Together let’s do everything we need to do so that November’s elections bring needed changes here in the U.S. and a big step forward in Asia.

EVAN WOLFSON founded and led Freedom to Marry, the campaign that won marriage nationwide, and now supports marriage equality efforts in other countries.

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