Thursday, 25 May 2017

Will Taiwan's Same-Sex Ruling Liberalize China?

Taiwan is the first place in Asia to recognize same-sex marriage
The news yesterday that Taiwan is the first place in Asia to legalize same-sex marriages was an euphoric moment for the LGBT community on the island.

Taiwan's top court, the Council of Grand Justices, ruled the current law barring same-sex marriage was a violation of the constitution, as everybody -- regardless of gender -- should enjoy the same marriage rights.

Now the government has two years to revise the civil code. "Even if the authorities fail to revise the law at the end of the two-year period, gay couples can always register with local household offices to make their marriages legal and... enjoy the same rights as heterosexual couples," said Lu Tai-lang, secretary general of the Council of Grand Justices.

Chi Chia-wei (in rainbow top) launched the suit in 2015
A statement issued by the Marriage Equality Grand Platform after the court's decision said, "the ruling will make Taiwan Asia's model of [same-sex] unions".

The suit was launched by veteran gay rights activist Chi Chia-wei, 59, two years ago. He asked if the current law violated the constitution after his attempt to register a marriage to another man was rejected by a Taipei household registration office in 2013, and subsequent appeals failed.

While there are the usual groups that oppose the ruling, we can't help but wonder what China thinks of it, considering how repressive it is when it comes to human rights. That said, eminent legal scholar Jerome Cohen seems to think the news won't be complete censored on the mainland.

"The Mainland's strict censorship and manipulation of the media will not entirely prevent people from knowing about the decision and its meaning," he writes in his blog.

"Although many in the Mainland may not welcome the decision, China traditionally has been more open to same sex relations than more Christian-dominated countries, and the more educated classes will appreciate not only the wisdom and fairness of the decision on the merits, but also the significance of the role of the judiciary in a genuine government under law country."

How will Taiwan's ruling affect China's views on gay unions?
And then today, there was news that the operations of the gay dating app Grindr will be taken over by a mainland Chinese company after it pays a total of US$240 million, and it will build expansion in and beyond China.

Game developer Beijing Kunlun Tech is owned by 38-year-old billionaire Zhou Yahui, and the company plans to pay another US$152 million to by the remaining 38 percent of Grindr it doesn't yet own.

By the way it paid US$88 million for the company last January for a 62 percent stake, which shows the social media app's valuation has gained 161 percent.

"[With the deal,] we also aim to be a world leading social media company in the future, and to expand our plaforms into film, streaming and animation," Kulun said in a statement.

It'll be interesting to see where Kunlun takes Grindr, while its main competition will be Blued, a Chinese gay-dating app that has over 27 million registered users -- almost on par with Grindr.

Blued was founded in 2012 by former policeman Ma Baoli, and last year its latest round of fundraising boosted its net worth to US$300 million, more than Grindr's HK$240 million.

So will more of these gay-dating apps push China to be even more gay friendly and possibly lead to allowing same-sex marriages? Stay tuned.

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