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(Photo credit: Hannah Fazio)
Marriage Equality Movement - Lessons Learned and Shared
婚姻平權運動 - 分享學到的經驗
Tongzhi Hotline, the first LGBTQ organization in Taiwan, recently organized a panel discussion with prominent U.S.-based gay rights advocacy leaders Evan Wolfson and Thalia Zepatos of the Freedom to Marry coalition, an organization that spearheaded the same-sex marriage movement in the United States. Wolfson founded and presided over the coalition until 2016, while Zepatos filled the role of Director of Research and Messaging from 2010 to 2015. Now that the United States has legalized same-sex marriage, they both travel the world offering ‘lessons learned’ to other social activist groups pushing for marriage equality in their respective countries.
台灣第一個LGBTQ組織「同志熱線」，最近組織了一次與美國著名的同志人權倡議領導人Evan Wolfson與Thalia Zepatos的專題討論會。他們代表「自由婚姻聯盟（Freedom to Mary Coalition）」，該組織是帶領美國同性婚姻運動的先鋒。 Wolfson成立該聯盟後，擔任主席直至2016年，而Zepatos從2010年到2015年擔任了研究和傳訊主任的角色。現在同性婚姻已經在美國合法化，他們就巡迴世界提供學到的＂教訓＂，向其他在各國推動婚姻平權的社運團體分享。
On January 17th, I traveled to A Thoughtful Café and listened as these two advocates engaged with a packed Taiwanese audience.
What’s the secret to achieving marriage equality?
Wolfson states, “Individually we must do our part and talk to the people in our lives, and then together [with] supporting organizations we do the big lift to get the job done.”
Having conversations is something that everyone who supports the movement can do to help change the hearts and minds of people who are curious, opposed, or on the fence about same-sex marriage. Sharing our stories with others and finding common values can help mitigate the ‘othering’ and divisiveness that occurs between the LGBTQ community and community at large. It can also help people understand who gay people are, and why some of them want to get married.
According to Wolfson, “[In the United States] the biggest challenge was to break that silence and give people the information they needed in a language with emotion, feeling, and authenticity so that they could begin to rise to fairness. Fair people were listening, talking, and opening their hearts, and they did move.”
How should a movement deal with the opposition?
Zepatos argues that marriage equality advocates must use the examples of countries where same-sex marriage is legal to demonstrate that the ominous consequences of equal marriage predicted by opposition groups are unrealistic. He urged listeners not to spend energy trying to change the opinions of those who are adamantly opposed, but instead “focus on the people you can move, focus on the people that are reachable.”
What about internal division?
For many people in Taiwan, traditional families and the institution of marriage themselves are outdated.
Zepatos says, “I'm a feminist, and I never thought that I would spend most of my days fighting for people to get married. But the marriage conversation is a much bigger conversation; it's about whether same-sex couples deserve a place in society. There is certainly no norm that everyone who is LGBT must get married. It’s important to recognize that having a nationwide conversation that doesn't have to to determine the future of every person is important.”
Wolfson notes, “I am also a feminist, and it’s in part that I’m a feminist that I fight for the freedom to marry. There is a strong feminist argument to saying that the government can't say two women can't form a union that isn't as important as a woman and man. We don't want to be in a society that says there are certain rules and roles for men and women. We must fight to ensure that the choices in life and the freedom are there for men and women without restriction and without the government dictating how you must live and what's right for you. That's an important thing we are all in this fight for. Also, say, politically we might not always agree on every policy, but those of us who share a certain vision must ask ourselves, ‘Will Taiwan be a better place if we win or lose this battle?’ Talking about marriage is helping move things forward. It will continue to make more space and progress that you will connect to the next battle and the next battle and the next battle.”
What will it mean if marriage equality is achieved in Taiwan?
According to Wolfson, “Passing the freedom to marry will put Taiwan on the map… Taking this step forward is going to be showing a forward-looking, pluralistic, welcoming country… In Japan, Vietnam, Korea in several of the countries I’m helping advise, they are all looking at you. When you win, it will have real impact.”
Wolfson went on to claim that marriage equality not only impacts the gay community, but also the business community. More businesses around the world are moving towards supporting same-sex marriage. Legalizing same-sex marriage will show investors that Taiwan is an open and good place for business. Zepatos thinks that if Taiwan becomes the first place in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage, Taiwan will become a major marriage tourism destination hub.
(Editing: Cat Jensen, HSU Marc; Translation: LEEWANG Ching)