This year, in a landmark legal case, two men became the first same-sex couple on the island to legally adopt a child, neither of whom are related.
They are now living their family’s dream with their 4-year-old daughter Joujou in the southern city of Kaohsiung in an apartment decorated with rainbow flags and family photos. Yet, while his family life is happy, his difficult court victories are bitter.
“We couldn’t be too happy about our victory, because so many of our friends are still going through a lot of hardships,” Chen, 35, said. Even after legalizing same-sex marriage, we weren’t welcome to have children together because one family,” said 38-year-old Wang. “We were treated like second-class citizens.”
This has created a strange loophole in which heterosexual couples – and single people of all sexual orientations – are allowed to adopt children to whom they are not biologically related, but are not same-sex couples. To date, Wang and Chen are the only same-sex married couple on the island to do so.
stain on progressive reputation
Activists say the loophole shows that despite the progress Taiwan has made in recognizing LGBTQ rights, the island has a long way to go before true equality for same-sex couples.
The adoption crunch isn’t the only problem left in 2019. The legal change also failed to fully recognize same-sex marriages; Foreign wives are recognized only if same-sex marriage is also legal in their home jurisdiction.
Freddie Lim, an independent member of parliament in Taiwan who advocates for LGBTQ rights, said that the loophole arose because at the time the law was changed, the society still faced “a lot of opposition from anti-LGBTQ groups”. ,” so the government focused “only”. On legalizing marriage, but not on rights relating to adoption of a child.”
However, Lim believes the approach has changed enough since then to reshape the law. In May, Lim and a bipartisan group of lawmakers proposed updating the law with a bill that he hopes could be passed by the end of the year.
Lim said, “If a society treats people differently based on their sexual orientation, it must have a strong reason for the public interest. But there is none, so it is clearly a form of discrimination.” Is.”
from despair to miracle
Nothing may change too soon for Wang and Chen, who hope their friends will survive the ordeal they face.
Wang and Chen, both teachers from southern Taiwan, had been dating for more than a decade when they began the adoption process in 2016. Wang applied in his name and a court confirmed his suitability in 2019 – after rigorous scrutiny on both men by social activists.
Things seemed all set for a happy family life.
“When same-sex marriage was legalized (a year later), we were expected to raise a child together,” Chen recalled.
However, Chen was told that he would be unable to register as the girl’s legal parent – even though the couple were married. It was heartbreaking for Chen, who prevented himself from performing parenting duties that most families assume by signing their daughter’s school or bank documents.
Chen said, “Every time we had to apply for our daughter, I was afraid to be asked about my relationship with her. I’ve always been her father, but recognized me as a parent.” did not go.”
In April last year, Wang and Chen along with two other couples filed a petition in a family court in Kaohsiung city. He hoped that the case would be dismissed – he felt he could appeal to Taiwan’s Supreme Court and eventually force a change in law.
However, to his surprise, in January the Family Court ruled in his favor, on the grounds that it was in Jojou’s best interest to have both legal parents. The other two cases were dismissed.
“I was amazed, it was a miracle,” Chen said. “Till then, I was living with my daughter, but I had nothing to do with her under the law.”
Wang said the decision was important for two reasons: It made it easier for the couple to care for their daughter — and it gave hope to other couples like her.
“I’m relieved now,” Wang said. “We can both act as legal parents and share the burden. And if Joujou gets sick and has to go to the doctor, we can both legally take leave and take care of him. are eligible.”
a tough fight
The problem is that the Family Court ruling is limited to Wang and Chen only. Other gay couples in Taiwan are still facing an uphill struggle.
Jordan, an American woman, is struggling to register as the mother of her Taiwanese wife’s adopted child. He met his wife Ray six years ago, and Ray began the adoption process in 2018—before the couple got married.
The couple told CNN not to reveal her full name for the safety of the 7-year-old.
“In the beginning, it was just my wife who was adopting because I wasn’t really sure whether I wanted to be a parent at the time,” Jordan said. “But within about a month of my daughter coming home, she and I developed a really close relationship.”
Last April, Jordan filed his plea in a family court at the same time as Wang and Chen did. However, his case was dismissed.
He said, “We are a family, but still it seems that we are not a perfect family. If this right is given directly to the people, then it is important that we are treated exactly like that.”
Jordan said that while Taiwan’s progressive reputation has been boosted by the legalization of same-sex marriage, more effort is needed to ensure equality for LGBTQ couples.
“Many people – even in Taiwan – don’t realize that we still don’t have perfect equality,” she said.
“It really kept us from being able to celebrate as much as we wanted to.”
Still, activists say there are reasons for optimism.
Joyce Teng, deputy executive director of the Taiwan Equality Campaign, said that since same-sex marriage was legalized three years ago, there has been a “greater level of acceptance and support” in society.
In its latest annual survey, published last month, the campaign found that 67% of Taiwanese supported allowing LGBTQ couples to adopt children, an 8% increase from a year earlier.
Wang said he hopes the law can be amended as soon as possible so that other couples can enjoy the same rights as him and Chen.
“There are many families who are afraid to file a petition in court because they don’t want to attract the attention of society or the media,” Wang said. “If the law remains unchanged, many may be afraid to stand up for their rights.”
There is also Taiwan’s reputation to think about – not only as an enlightened jurisdiction for LGBTQ rights, but its image as a free and democratic beacon in the Asia-Pacific region.
“When the international community looks at Taiwan, we are often treated as the first line of defense against authoritarianism,” MP Lim said.
“But if we are to truly portray ourselves as free, equal and democratic … then we have to recognize and resolve the injustices in our society – and LGBTQ rights are an important part of that.”