Gay Rights in Modern Society and the Democratic Debate: A Reply to Marco Chu’s Article “No space for ‘pluralism’ on equality committee”

Marco Chu wrote an article in the Taipei Times on Wednesday, July 25, 2017 P. 8 entitled “No space for ‘pluralism’ on equality committee”

Here is some tough love, Marco.

Sorry Marco, while I completely agree with you that it is right that LGBTQ people are entitled to the same protections in law as a consequence of their inherent gender identity, and I agree that gay people are entitled to be free of discrimination and are entitled to live openly as they choose according to their gender identity, I completely disagree with how you arrive at that conclusion and your typically “progressive” selectivity of ideas and controversies as “enlightened”, and for lack of another term the opposition to those ideas as “evil”.

You have not said anything in your Taipei Times article that has not been hashed out for the past umpteen years in the United States, which, unlike Taiwan, is 80% or more Christian, and where religion is as much a part of daily life as is freedom of religion and freedom of speech, and all of the rights enshrined in the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution, which, by the way, have been heavily litigated for two hundred years.

You go off on a tangent that cannot be accepted, the notion that progressive ideas are somehow entitled to uber-protection and “golden” treatment because….because….well, because they are progressive! That is nonsense.

First, were a poll taken with secret ballots, you would find an overwhelming opposition in Taiwan to some of the LGBTQ issues you have mentioned, including “marriage”. However, since the Constitution is the Constitution and since it has been ruled by Taiwan’s highest legal authority that it allows gay marriage, but that the Government should determine how and when to implement that, debate is now forthcoming. Taiwan is a very traditional culture, with a very progressive epicenter, but those traditions are very strong among a majority of the population. Come back in another generation and the poll would likely change. Such is democracy, and such is human nature, where people are more careful and conservative in middle aged and older generations. Your notion that anyone in opposition to LGBTQ issues should be excluded from the discussion – well, there is a word for that – it is called “tyranny”. You are suggesting that only the LGBTQ voices can be considered in this debate (which takes away the very notion of a debate), and that anyone who opposes does not deserve to be heard.

In the US, the opposition usually takes the form of religious dogma. In Taiwan, it is likely the opposition is deeply rooted in ancient traditions and culture, just as Taiwan independence is naturally accepted among younger generations and harder to accept among the older blue-trained generations saturated with KMT dogma.

Progressive ideas do not necessarily smell better because they are progressive. This is a slippery slope. Some of the statements made in the article are somewhat dangerous.

1. The parallels offered (White Terror and human rights committee) are patently ridiculous and the parties taking part in the debate about LGBTQ are nothing like those named (“military personnel and police who tortured”) and comparing several million amah, who are likely not in favor of gay marriage to secret police is somewhat preposterous, don’t you think? (“Amah (Grandma), it is normal today, it is okay for a girl to dress like a boy, or for that boy next door to wear a dress, and for girls to marry girls and for men to marry men.” “No! Marriage has always been for a man and a woman, no one else, period. You need to see a doctor. Didn’t your parents teach you anything?” Tell me this conversation has not been had at least twenty million times in Taiwan).

2. “If the DPP government accepts religious extremists who have been discriminating against those who are not heterosexually inclined, even taking the lead in oppressing, attacking, ostracizing and cursing gay people, on the committee — imagining that this is diversity — it would not just be wrong” Basically, it is the progressive play book to say that anyone who opposes a liberal or progressive idea is an “extremist”. But this is patently false. There is a huge, huge portion of the population who are in the middle, not deep left and not deep right. Those people are ordinary everyday people who believe in their traditions, go to work, go to school, bai bai when necessary, and live their lives without “oppressing, attacking or ostracizing” anyone. They just disagree with you. Saying these people have no voice in the debate, is tyranny. Of course they should have a voice. They are a majority of the people the government represents.

Ahhh….this is the point. The progressive idea is so golden, it must be shoved down the throats of the populace because it is an enlightened position with which no one can disagree without being crazy or evil. Sorry, Marco. That just doesn’t work. And the people on the committee don’t have to be the extremists you mention, not on either side, LGBTQ or its opposition. You see, you want the extreme pro-LGBTQ voice to be represented, but not any other. Do you see the hypocrisy there? Do you understand that when far far far left ideas become like this, they become far far far right? Like Nicolas Maduro, in Venezuela, who is so far to the left, that he has crossed over into the far right, as a dictator, a socialist dictator.

3.”If a church or religion does not accept gay marriage, it can refuse to conduct same-sex weddings. That is religious freedom and cultural diversity, so while it might not be right, it cannot be criticized.” And yet, in the US, the movement has been to force religious groups, under Obama’s administration, to accept these ideas as givens, without any right to refuse to accept. In the US right now, a baker cannot refuse to bake a cake for a gay wedding. There are huge numbers of people who oppose that. (Personally I think it is ridiculous, a cake is a cake and you are in business, so bake the damn cake already, but it is an explosive issue.)

What I mean is that it is a slippery slope and once you accept one position, you will end up accepting all of it, eventually. Progressives will call this “progress”. Conservatives will call this “revolution”.  Aren’t both voices entitled to be heard in the debate? Is that not what “free speech” is all about?

4. “The state should stand up for minorities and protect them from prosecution [sic] rather than dance to the oppressors’ tune while calling it ‘pluralism.'” Again, characterizing the opposition as “oppressors” certainly is a strong indication of the writer’s refusal to accept any other dissenting voice, and adopting the progressive play book in labeling opposition as “evil” as opposed to simply a contrary position. The progressive’s BM always smells like roses to the progressive.

Finally, I understand disappointment with the DPP for it not pushing through the changes that the LBGTQ community hoped would be made. Some changes have begun. To suggest the government has a duty to ignore the populace of the country and to cater to only some of its supporters also smacks of tyranny. Again, that is the tyranny of the left, that is the march towards dictatorship. If you listen to the verbiage of Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela and Hugo Chavez before him, you would hear the same progressive mumbo jumbo and the translation of the mumbo jumbo equals “I am your dictator, viva la revolution”. To stand up and argue that only your voice counts in a democracy is wrong.

Yes, pluralism has its dangers. The UN is an excellent example. In the UN a majority of countries often vote against history, fact and logic, because they have the votes for it. So they can vote that there is only one China and that includes Taiwan, even though Taiwan has been de facto independent for 70 years and Communist China has no dominion over Taiwan whatsoever, or that Jerusalem has no connection whatsoever to the Jews and wipe out 3,000 years of Jewish history, simply because there is a plurality. So too, in Iran and some eastern European countries, and in Russia, the leadership has actually said “We have no gays here” reflecting a plurality. That is either because they are hiding or were killed. Pluralism has its dangers too.

Stability requires deliberate action, and deliberate action requires deliberation, which by its very nature requires consideration of all sides in an issue or debate. By arguing the opposition has no voice, a beautiful thing called democracy becomes dictatorship.

There is nothing wrong with, as the DPP has said, promoting reconciliation. There is nothing wrong with considering opposing voices. “Considering” them and “obeying” them are completely different. Rejecting opposition is included within “considering” opposition. The writer’s fear of those opposing voices does not place sufficient faith in the process under the system of government Taiwanese have chosen. The alternative is the Communist Chinese way, where the supreme leader makes the decision, no debate, next case.

The LGBTQ revolution has already taken hold around the world. If you turn on the TV in the U.S., every other TV show involves LGBTQ issues, characters are in every movie, every TV show, on the news, in public life everywhere. While many in the US oppose this, there is not very much that can be done to stop it. It has taken hold in Taiwan too, in many ways. The culture is still a conservative culture. Only time will tell the extent to which the concepts are acceptable. As younger people step into positions of power, the nature of how these issues are decided will likely change. Many times sea change takes time. It requires patience (not less pressure, but patience).

Same-sex marriage – the Constitution supersedes majority rule

The Constitution supersedes majority rule. This might sound strange in a democracy but it is true. A constitution is intended to enshrine fundamental rights which are natural and expected among the people governed by it. In Taiwan, Article 173 of the Constitution provides that the Judicial Yuan interprets the Constitution.
Those who oppose same-sex marriage argue the Constitution should be amended to forbid it. I feel they do not understand the sanctity of the Constitution, or why it is sacrosanct.
Most constitutions cannot be amended lightly, and not amended except by a super majority, and in the case of the US, by 3/4 of the state legislatures voting on an amendment proposed by 2/3 of the U.S. House and Senate. In Taiwan, the requirements for amendment are similar, requiring more than a simple majority in the Assembly to approve a resolution (by the Assembly itself requiring one fifth of the members to recommend a resolution, and then three fourths of the members present approving with a quorum of at least two thirds voting) or by referendum proposed by one fourth of the Assembly and approved by resolution of three fourths of the Members present and voting at a meeting with three fourths present. Article 174 of the Constitution).
Why is a simple majority insufficient? Isn’t democracy ordinarily a system based on majority votes? Yes, but the Constitution enshrines principles that in fact among other things are rights of the people protected against the majority, preventing those fundamental principles from being amended lightly, simply by virtue of a majority of popular opinion (in which case that basic fabric of life under that Constitution would sway with the political winds each time an administration changes). These principles, like freedom of speech, freedom of religion, due process, equal protection are so ingrained in a democratic society they all transcend majority rule, and are intended to withstand political turmoil.
In the article entitled “Same-sex Marriage: Same-sex marriage decision sparks fury” on P. 3 of the May 25, 2017 paper, anger against the Grand Justices’ ruling holding legalization of same-sex marriage was required by the Constitution was typified by the following: “The interpretation represents “the elite of the nation’s judiciary system bullying the majority opinion of the public,” alliance convener Yu Hsin-yi (游信義) said, adding that it is wrong for the “lawmaking body to interfere with justice.””
First, the Judicial Yuan is not a lawmaking body, it is among other things the Constitutional Court in Taiwan and the sole body charged with interpreting the Constitution. Its interpretation is not interfering with justice but rather defining justice. In China, justice is defined as whatever the Chinese Communist Party says it is. Taiwan is far more enlightened.
Whether one agrees or disagrees with the decision on same-sex marriage, people on the street must understand the sacred and higher nature of the Constitution, something that is intended to be eternal and transcendent, and the interpretation of Constitutional principles (in this case equal protection under the law under Article 7) outweighs the majority’s view, absent the overwhelming super-majority needed to change those fundamental principles.
It is true that interpretations of the Constitution (by the Grand Council of Justices in Taiwan and the US Supreme Court in the US) may change with the changes in the composition of the Court over time, though hopefully not altering the nature of those fundamental principles, but continuing to interpret them in light of the evolution of society. Whether or not the Constitution is an immutable document that is not susceptible to changing interpretation is a question plaguing many on both sides of the political spectrum.
The issue of same-sex rights is not something contemplated by Constitutions written more than one or two hundred  years ago, and so interpreters of the Constitutions are faced with assessing how those fundamental rights come into play with these changes in society. There is no better example of the wide range of judicial “tolerance” or “intolerance” of same-sex issues as have occurred in the news the past few days, where on one hand enlightened Taiwan has said its Constitution is tolerant and same sex couples should be allowed to get married, and in Indonesia, where a gay couple is not only not allowed to marry, but is not even allowed to exist, two individuals publicly beaten with canes more than eighty lashes for having engaged in “criminal” homosexual activity. On which side of the spectrum should Taiwan stand?
The Council of Grand Justices has decided that issue. It is not surprising considering the origins of Taiwan’s Constitution (related to some extent to Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address (and the words “government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the Earth”), and the fact the United States Supreme Court in 2015 came to the same conclusion, also  with great controversy, regarding same-sex marriage.
Whichever side of the case one stands on, the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution are broader than a single issue, are not subject to political whim, and are intended to endure.