Taiwan rejects same-sex marriage in referendum

Taiwan votes on gay marriage, controversial name change

Voters in Taiwan backed anti-gay marriage referendums on Saturday in what LGBT activists said was a major blow to the island's reputation as a rights trailblazer.

Taiwanese voters delivered President Tsai Ing-wen's party a resounding defeat in local elections Saturday, ousting it from several key strongholds.

Taiwan television stations reported a high turnout, with some polling stations in parts of Taipei and Kaohsiung remaining open past the advertised closing time.

Tsai has promoted Taiwan as a beacon of democracy in the region since she took office, pitching it as a counterpoint to China's authoritarianism. "We should humbly accept the higher standard the people have set".

The results show they chose to stick with Chinese Taipei.

However, Tsai later said she would ask Lai to stay on.

The main opposition Kuomintang (KMT), which oversaw an unprecedented thaw with Beijing before Tsai took office in 2016, made gains in the face of China's increasing pressure on the island, which it considers as part of its territory to be reunified.

Tsai has made little progress despite campaigning on a promise of marriage equality in the run-up to elections in 2016.

The majority of voters approved a measure Saturday stating "Civil Code regulations should restrict marriage to being between a man and a woman" and two other measures opposing same-sex marriage while rejecting measures to legalize same sex marriage and asking if civil code marriage regulations "should be used to guarantee the rights of same-sex couples to get married". Rights activists say the referendum is "discriminatory" as it goes against a 2017 court ruling that current laws violate the right to freedom of marriage and equality.

Tseng Hsien-yin, leader of the Coalition for the Happiness of our Next Generation, a group that opposes gay marriage, said the decision reflected the will of the voters.

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Ms Tsai said the DPP would reflect on the defeat, but she vowed to press on.

Justices told legislators then to make same-sex marriage legal within two years, a first for Asia where religion and conservative governments normally keep the bans in place.

The government earlier said Saturday's referendums would not affect it bringing in the changes required by the court ruling.

According to the Referendum Act (公民投票法) a result in favor of the referendum must exceed 25 percent of total eligible votes, and must be also greater than the number of votes against, according to the Central Election Commission.

During campaigning, President Tsai and her administration accused China of meddling in the elections without providing hard evidence, often using the term fake news and promoting her party as protecting Taiwan's democracy.

"As chairperson of the ruling party, I will take complete responsibility for the outcome of today's local elections", she told reporters.

The DPP lost seven of the 13 cities and counties it now holds - the special municipalities of Taichung and Kaohsiung, Chiayi City, and Yilan, Yunlin, Changhua and Penghu counties - to the opposition Kuomintang (KMT).

In Taichung City, the incumbent and DPP mayoral candidate Lin Chia-lung sought to retain his seat and was widely expected to win the election.

Beijing has sought to punish Tsai and the DPP by ramping up military drills, poaching allies and successfully persuading worldwide businesses, including airlines, to list the island as part of China on their websites.

Taiwanese officials had warned that Beijing was seeking to sway voters through the spread of disinformation online similar to how Russian Federation was accused of interfering in US elections. Beijing has denied the allegations.

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