A Taiwanese court on Thursday shrank away from ruling on a gay couple’s wish to have their marriage registered, saying it would pass on the controversial case to the island’s top judicial body.
The case has been widely described as a potential “milestone” for gay rights because it could lead to Asia’s first legal same-sex marriage.
“The court is preparing to ask the Grand Justices to make further explanations on the case,” an official at the Taipei High Administrative Court said.
The court will meet once more on January 15 to finalise the decision to pass on the case to the Grand Justices, which are generally considered the highest level in Taiwan’s complex legal system, standing above even the Supreme Court.
Chen Ching-hsueh and his partner Kao Chih-wei earlier this year filed a complaint with the administrative court against a local household registration agency which turned them away when they tried to register their marriage.
Chi Chia-wei, one of Taiwan’s best-known gay rights advocates, expressed disappointment with the decision.
“The judges showed no spine on this critical case. This could have become a milestone case for all Asia,” he said.
Gay and lesbian groups in Taiwan, more liberal than most Asian societies, have been urging the government for years to make same-sex unions legal.
More than 50,000 gays and lesbians and their supporters marched through downtown Taipei in October to push for the legalisation of same-sex marriage in Taiwan as the island marked its 10th annual Gay Pride event.
Aiming to raise awareness about the issue, some 80 lesbian couples last year took part in Taiwan’s biggest same-sex “wedding party”, attracting about 1,000 friends, relatives and curious onlookers.
In August two women tied the knot in the island’s first same-sex Buddhist “wedding”. The much-publicised event featured blessings from a well-known Buddhist master and 300 Buddhist guests.