Taiwan votes down same-sex marriage

Taiwan's top court legalised gay marriage in May 2017 and ruled that it must be brought in within two years

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, as Beijing's influence on the island - which it considers its own territory - grows.

EDITOR'S NOTE - Christopher Bodeen has covered politics in China and Taiwan for The Associated Press for more than two decades.

Others are turned off by the ruling party because it stands by statements and actions that others find problematic, said Gratiana Jung, senior political researcher with the Yuanta-Polaris Research Institute think tank in Taipei.

Tsai resigned on Saturday as chairwoman of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) after losing key battleground cities in mayoral polls to the China-friendly Kuomintang.

Since the DPP came to power, the relationship with mainland China - which is becoming increasingly assertive - has significantly deteriorated.

Beijing has intensified pressure on Taiwan under Tsai, upping military drills, poaching diplomatic allies and successfully convincing global businesses to list Taiwan as part of China on their websites.

"Rather than thinking that Saturday's results were because the KMT did a good job in opposition, it is more accurate to say they were due to voters' overwhelmingly negative perception of the DPP", Eric Yu of National Chengchi University's Election Study Center was quoted as saying in the Taipei Times on Monday.

Tensions across the Taiwan Strait have heightened, with China conducting military drills around the island and snatching away Taiwan's dwindling number of diplomatic allies.

By most economic metrics, Tsai hasn't performed badly as president.

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But voters threw the Nationalists out of local offices in 2014 and the presidency in 2016 as they feared Ma had gotten too cozy with Beijing.

"Taiwan is a conservative society and not quite ready for the progressive label it's been given in some quarters", said Jonathan Sullivan, director of the China Policy Institute at Nottingham University. "It doesn't have to be the 1992 Consensus".

A mother of two young boys told me outside a polling station that she supports neither independence nor unification, and she doesn't want war between the two sides; she just want more opportunities for Taiwanese people's lives to improve.

There was a series of votes on Saturday, including local elections with caused the President of Taiwan to quit.

Ho said he would not accept anything less than the amendment of the existing marriage law as laid out in the Civil Code to put gay couples on an equal footing with heterosexual couples.

Referendum #10 - which asked "Do you agree that the Civil Code should define marriage as the union between a man and a woman?" - garnered 7,658,008 "yes" votes and 2,907,429 "no" votes. The move seemingly set Taiwan on the path to becoming the first country in Asia to legalize marriage equality.

Christian groups and advocates of the traditional Chinese family structure stumped for Saturday's referendum along with a separate ballot measure that suggests using a "different process" to protect same-sex unions, a likely reference to keeping the civil code's marriage wording as is.Both measures passed.

But campaigners fear the eventual legislation will be weaker.

The referendum took place regardless of the high court's ruling, as the government failed to implement laws legitimising same-sex marriages in the face of resistance from conservative groups that led to the public vote. Legislators, though mindful of public opinion, are obligated to carry out the legal order.

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