Taiwan: Hundreds commemorate death of gay professor Jacques Picoux

SEVERAL HUNDRED attended a memorial event on Ketagalan Boulevard to commemorate the one year anniversary of the death of NTU professor Jacques Picoux yesterday. Picoux, a Frenchman living in Taiwan and a well known professor at NTU, committed suicide as a result of depression following the death of his partner, Zeng Jingchao, who he lived with for 35 years. A contributing factor to his suicide is thought to be the fact that because Picoux was unable to be legally married to Tseng Ching-chao, he was unable to participate in making medical decisions regarding Zeng’s status on his deathbed. As a result of this, Zeng was also unable to will any property to Picoux following his death.

Picoux’s suicide last year led to a renewed push for marriage equality in Taiwan. But, one year later, despite a historic ruling from the Council of Grand Justices’ that it was unconstitutional to deny marriage to same-sex couples, the current DPP administration seems to be recalcitrant on the issue. Due to strong opposition from Christian anti-gay groups and because Presbyterian church groups are among the forces within the DPP, many DPP politicians seem to be less than enthusiastic about legalizing gay marriage, resistance against gay marriage fronted by legislative speaker Ker Chien-Ming.

Current president Tsai Ing-Wen made marriage equality a campaign platform in 2016 elections in order to establish an image for herself as a politically progressive candidate in order to win over the progressive Taiwanese youth activists who had seized public attention since the end of the Sunflower Movement in 2014. As such, DPP legislators who may not have been entirely onboard with legalizing gay marriage were forced to comply with Tsai during 2016 campaigning. But in the face of larger than expected demonstrators from Christian groups strongly opposed to gay marriage, Tsai backed away from express support of the issue, stating that she would follow the due process of the relevant legal and judicial organs in ruling on game marriage.

Among the participants of the rally yesterday were noted LGBTQ activists such as Chi Chia-Wei, who has spent thirty years engaged in a legal challenge to legalize gay marriage, Jennifer Lu of the Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline, a key organizer in the Taiwanese LGBTQ movement, and others. Chi in particular made the comment that after having been recently awarded winner of the Presidential Culture Award in the social reform category, he wished that he could exchange the award for immediate legalization of same-sex marriage, a comment he has made before in the past. As with past rallies, participants used their cell phones as metaphoric candles in the night and a series of lighted banners in calligraphy called for realization of marriage equality.

LGBTQ activists and their allies have raised the Picoux case in order to cite the very human costs which may occur in the two years until same-sex marriage is legalized, in which similar tragedies as the Picoux suicide may occur within these two years because of lack of action by the Legislative Yuan or the Tsai administration.  

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