In a U.S. landmark of LGBT history, Americans raise funds for those in Taiwan


By Chris Fuchs

Supporters of LGBT rights are making a final push in the U.S. to raise funds for marriage-equality organizations in Taiwan that hope to sway how Taiwanese vote on a series of same-sex marriage referendums in late November.

Freedom To Marry Global, a campaign that helped win marriage equality in the U.S., and Marriage Equality Coalition Taiwan were among the groups that co-hosted a fundraiser Friday night at The Stonewall Inn in Manhattan, a fixture in LGBT history.

The event netted at least $6,700, exceeding the goal of $5,000, which Freedom To Marry Global agreed to match, according to Cameron Tolle, an advisor with the group.

That means around $12,000 will be sent to marriage-equality groups in Taiwan to help fund ads and other get-out-the-vote efforts in the final weeks leading up to a Nov. 24 ballot referendum — the results of which could affect whether Taiwan’s government seeks full-marriage equality or limited civil partnership.

“Taiwan is really the top priority for us right now as a global battleground for LGBT equality,” Tolle said.

Image: Participants take part in a LGBT pride parade to support same-sex marriage in Taipei
Participants take part in a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) pride parade to support same-sex marriage in Taipei, Taiwan, Oct. 27, 2018.Tyrone Siu / Reuters

Last May, Taiwan’s Constitutional Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, a first for Asia. It found that provisions in the democratically self-ruled island’s civil code violate guarantees of freedom of marriage and the right to equality for same-sex couples who want to marry.

The court gave authorities two years to amend or enact laws in accordance with its ruling. Failing to do so by May 2019 would automatically permit same-sex couples to register their marriages.

With about a half-year to go before that deadline — and no action thus far from legislators —five referendum questions about same-sex marriage will appear on ballots on Nov. 24, when Taiwanese also head to the polls to vote in a number of local races.

Two come from groups supporting marriage-equality and three from those opposed. One of those referendum items attempts to roll back LGBT education in elementary and junior high school curricula.

“The younger generation has been much more friendly toward LGBT people at this point,” said Lance Chen-Hayes, a Newtown, Pennsylvania, resident who was born and raised in Taiwan and identifies as gay. “The conservative Christian groups recognize that, they want to change that.”

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