Taiwan's same-sex parents: 'We're like any other family'

Jay Lin and his partner Image copyright Jay Lin
Image caption Jay Lin (l) and his partner Jona Chen with their twins

Taiwan has just taken a major step towards increasing rights for lesbian and gay people.

The top court has ruled it is unconstitutional to ban same-sex couples from getting married and legally registering those marriages. Parliament now has two years to amend the law, or same-sex couple will be able to marry under existing laws.

Jay Lin and his partner are raising twin sons, conceived with the help of an egg donor and a surrogate mother. Jay, their biological father, told the BBC why a law change was important to him and his family.

'Just like any other parents'

I believe the manifestation of love should not have different categories. I have seen so many gay couples in Taiwan who have been together for a long time, longer in fact than heterosexual couples.

And these couples need these legal protection to get married.

I've been with my partner, Jona, for four years. We're not married, but we hope to get married soon.

Last year, my surrogate gave birth to my twins in the US. I brought the twins back to Taiwan when they were one month old.

Since then, we've been doing everything parents would do with newborns: vaccines, bathing and feeding, introducing them to family and friends and adjusting our lives around them.

Image copyright Jay Lin

I work but my partner has quit his job to take care of our kids. Yet when he's taking them to the doctor or nursery schools for instance, he gets immediately discredited as the non-parent.

The problem is that I travel a lot for work, but there are certain things that happen to the boys that need a parent's approval, like medical procedures or school issues.

If I'm not able to sign off or approve certain procedures then the new law would mean that my partner can be there to make those decisions.

Knock on wood, nothing drastic has happened that has put us in a very difficult spot - so far it's mostly been things like doctor's visits or signing contracts to send them to school.

But of course we want Jona to be recognised as the co-parent of these twins so that he has legal rights to them.

A need for more adoptions

Allowing gay couples to marry so they can qualify for adoption is also something that's important to me in terms of wanting to help gay couples who want to have children.

I tried adoptions first in Taiwan, but was told by so many people, "don't even bother, the social workers wouldn't think it's feasible".

Image copyright Jay Lin

Last year the number of adoptions in Taiwan was only around 300. If you include intra-family adoptions it's about 1,000.

Half of the 300 kids adopted by non-family members went overseas, the other half stayed in Taiwan. And that shows there aren't a lot children being adopted by local heterosexual couples.

So gay couples should be allowed to adopt and provide homes for these children.

Change is needed - soon

Surrogacy is costly, and you have to devote a lot of time to the whole process.

There are an estimated 200 gay families registered with the Taiwan LGBT Family Rights Advocacy [these partnerships are not accepted as marriages by the state]. But that's an extremely low number. I'm sure there are thousands of such families, they're just not coming out to be recorded.

Image copyright Jay Lin
Image caption Jay's parents are happy about their grandkids

There are a lot of underreported cases of such gay partnerships and a lot of people don't know the option [of registering with the advocacy group].

We'd like to have this law passed earlier rather than later. The president will be campaigning for re-election in 2018; issues like this will be sidelined.

The entire goal for a lot of people is to harness all this energy to have something happen by the end of June.

Reporting by the BBC's Cindy Sui in Taipei.

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