Interview of CHI Chia-Wei on 10 August 2020
CHI Chia-wei (祁家威) has fought for LGBT rights in Taiwan for more than 4 decades. He is born in 1958.
In 1986, he applied to the Taipei District Court notary office with a request for a notarized marriage license. His demand was rejected. He made an appeal to the Legislative Yuan, the Parliament of Taiwan. But the appeal was rejected. After that he was detained in jail for 162 days.
In 1994, the Ministry of Justice decided that marriage is reserved to heterosexual couples. He tried a third time to obtain a marriage license in 1998. The demand was rejected. Therefore, he made an appeal in October 2000 to the Council of Grand Justice. A judge rejected his appeal.
For the 4th time, on 21 March 2013, he applied for a marriage license. The request was denied. Therefore, he appealed to the Taipei City Government’s Department of Civil Affairs. As he invoked the constitutionality of the question, the Department referred to the Taipei Higher Administrative Court and then to the Supreme Administrative Court, and then to the Constitutional Court.
On 24 May 2017, in its Judicial Yuan Interpretation n°748, the Constitutional Court of Taiwan ruled that excluding same-sex couples from marriage is unconstitutional, due to principles of equality and freedom to marry. Besides, the Constitutional Court gave 2 years to the Parliament to change the law. Without change of the law, same-sex couples would be allowed to marry after 24 May 2019.
On 24 November 2018, the Taiwanese people voted against same-sex marriage in a referendum by 72%. Anyway, the Government proposed the change of the Civil Code on 17 May 2019 and the law came into effect on 24 May 2019 in order to respect the decision of the Constitutional Court.
Therefore, it can be said that CHI Chia-Wei acted in order to have marriage equality in Taiwan. Taiwan is the first country in Asia to have marriage equality.
Interview of CHI Chia-Wei done on 10 August 2020, by SIL
in Chinese (Mandarin) and translation into English
How and why did you ask for marriage in 1986?
In 1973, homosexuality was considered as a mental disease. I thought that maybe we could discuss about marriage and Human Rights to look for equality. Gays do not have to make a coming out, because it is about Human Rights and straight people do not do have to come out. I thought we should make it now.
I have not worked since I am 28 years old, because I was in a jail and after I met my partner who supported me. As a student, I had law books and I get some information about these issues and proceedings. I just wanted to raise some questions to the public. It was not difficult. The cost of litigation in Taiwan is not high so people can apply easily.
You knew that authorities would say no?
At that time, gay discrimination was everywhere in all the world. Marriage gave protection to the straight persons. I thought that gay persons could have it too, for their protection. At work, in studies, discrimination existed and maybe it was necessary to change this.
In the 70s, Taiwan did not have a criminalisation of homosexual relationships unlike in the UK before, the situation was different. I wanted to discuss about Human Rights, there was no freedom, I wanted to discuss about it, I went to court because of it. I started with a special commission in parliament.
Did you make jail because of asking for marriage?
Yes, because my request was rejected by the Government, because I made the question to the Government. I was 162 days in jail in 1986.
Why did you apply into Court in 2000?
After 5 cases before 2000 during 2 years, all requests were immediately rejected. So I decided to go to a major court.
What were the costs for all these proceedings in the administrative and judicial levels?
There were no costs. I felt like Don Quichote with my ideas because the Government refused it and the story continued.
Did you have any lawyer or did you do it alone? Were you supported by any association or any political party?
I was alone, I dit not have any lawyer, there was no political party or any association with me. I thought it could be difficult to have a lawyer because he would not have no idea to understand marriage equality.
What has been your motivation in order to fight for marriage equality?
When I was young, not so many persons wanted to change the society, so I wanted to help young gays.
What do you think about the referendum in 2018 when Taiwanese people voted against marriage equality?
About the referendum, it was a joke, because organisations wanted to change the outcome, even if they would lose. Many old persons and others did not have no ideas about this issue. It was a manipulation from these organisations.
Could we consider you as the Father of same-sex marriage in Taiwan?
In social medias, about same-sex marriage, I was the first one to discuss it, but I did not create it.
How are the authorities and Taiwanese people considering you after all these fights?
Still many gays dislike same-sex marriage because they do not like marriage. But I did it for people who need marriage.
There were a few persons in 2003 at the first gay parade in Taiwan, and nowadays 50 000 persons because the society has changed and people allow it. The agenda change and there is a new law anti-discrimination law now and people accept different standards of living.
Same-sex marriage belongs to a society that already changed. Even if some religious organisations still oppose it today.
What are your advices for someone who fight for marriage equality in another country?
We cannot use Taiwan as an experience because other countries have other laws. For exemple, in Hong Kong, it costs 3000 euros to file one case, it is another situation, while the judicial litigation in Taiwan is free. In Japan, it already exists a recognition of gay relationships, so there is no need. In USA, it was necessary to have the promotion of same-sex marriage and a PHD thesis was written in 1994 while marriage came many years later. So there is no need anymore in the USA.
In Taiwan, it lasted 31 years to wait. It is a long process.
Since 1986, are you in couple with the same person?
In 1986, I filed the request without partner. Since 1988, I have my partner, but I dit it for everybody.
What are your fights today?
I am fighting for my friends, nowadays 28 countries recognise same-sex marriage and tomorrow I am going to the court in order to obtain the recognition of foreign same-sex marriages in Taiwan.