Our DPP Justice Minister revealed himself to be not only a retrograde thinker, but a Han nationalist to boot. Speaking on gay marriage at a hearing that was live streamed, Justice Minister Chiu Tai-san said:
“The Civil Code stipulates that marriage shall be between a man and a woman, and as such it is not unconstitutional. The Constitution guarantees citizens’ right to marry as that between a man and a woman, while marriage between people of the same sex is not covered under the Constitution,” Chiu said.This kind of argument is completely idiotic -- projecting modern institutions into the past in order to legitimate them. Jenna (added: actually her quietly brilliant husband) tracked down this website giving some examples of different kinds of marriages in China over time. Recall that polygamy was common, with not only multiple wives but also concubines. And women marrying a set of brothers was a known marriage form. Any competent anthropologist could give many examples of other forms of marriage not only in China but all over the world.
“For thousands of years in the nation’s history, society has instituted traditions and codes of conduct regarding marriage. Has there ever been a cultural institution or social phenomenon for same-sex marriage?” Chiu said.
“Without a doubt, there has been none,” Chiu said.
He then quoted one section of the Chinese classic I Ching (易經), also known as the Book of Changes, which reads: “With the existence of the earth and the sky, there came all living things. With the existence of the earth and the sky, there came men and women,” which he said illustrates that Chinese marriage traditions have — since ancient times — been based on a union between a man and a woman.
The issue is exactly the same as in the US, where "conservatives" scream the lie that marriage has always been one man, one woman. Reality is always the opposite of such fantasies. It is not difficult to find the many works that depict the deep roots of homosexuality and same-sex marriage in Chinese culture. Take the introduction to this book, which remarks on the commonality of homosexuality in Chinese culture:
Many times homosexuality acted as an integral part of society, complete with same-sex marriages for both men and women.You don't have to know anything about gay marriage in Chinese history to know that if a social conservative is asserting something about marriage and history, he's almost certainly wrong. Indeed, in many Buddhist circles where reincarnation is believed, it is also believed that two souls are fated to marry each other irrespective of sex, which provided religious sanction for homosexual marriage in ancient Chinese society. Of course many regions had their own traditions of gay marriage. Chiu's claims are a perfect melding of idiocy and ignorance.
Why O why can't science and scholarship form the basis of our public discourse and decision-making?
Despite Chiu Tai-san's claim, the ROC Constitution does not mention marriage, as far as I can see. Article 7 guarantees equality before the law, while Article 8 guarantees personal freedom. How you interpret that is up to you. But it seems to me that it is hard to uphold Article 7 yet oppose gay marriage.
Citing the I Ching is unwise, at best. A DPP minister should take the view that Taiwan can form its own traditions, customs, and cultures, and that China should be left behind. Using Chinese historical hokum as the basis for arguments in modern society should never be a DPP practice, it tends to create connections where none are necessary.
Moreover, anti-homosexuality in modern Taiwan has its roots in another discourse -- that of state power and control, the heterosexualization of society, and the faux Confucian morality of the KMT's Party-State. This paper observes:
During the first two decades of Kuomintang (KMT) rule, Taiwan experienced steady economic growth but changes to the political system were not permitted; the corporatist model of KMT rule was omnipresent. Taiwanese society between the 1950s and 1960s could be described as heterosexualized in terms of discourse; “family values” were regarded as deriving directly from a stable Confucian and Chinese tradition and public discourses of same-sex desire were almost non-existent:...revealing the fundamental truth: that assertions of "family values" are the code language of right-wing nationalist state power and control.
Hence, when Chiu Tai-san marginalized gay marriage (and implicitly, gayness) as "unChinese", he was invoking decades of this rightist, ahistorical, inhuman discourse that helped form the basis of KMT power in Taiwan.
Thanks, Chiu Tai-san. You're a genius.
Imagine if Chiu had taken another view -- that gay marriage was an ancient practice in south China from whence many ancestors of Taiwanese arrived. Imagine if his use of history had been informed, sensitive, and progressive. Imagine if he'd envisioned gay people as human beings like himself....
Total fail on all fronts by Chiu Tai-san.
[Taiwan] Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!