Taiwanese same-sex couple become first to legally adopt following historic court ruling

The case marks the first time in the country’s history that LGBTQ+ spouses have been permitted to adopt a child unrelated to either party

A Taiwanese couple made history last month by becoming the first marri​​ed same-sex partners to legally adopt a child in Taiwan.

On Dec. 25, the Kaohsiung Juvenile and Family Court cleared a path for 34-year-old Chen Chun-ju to share legal guardianship of his husband Wang Chen-wei’s adopted child, who is referred to in media coverage by her nickname, Joujou. The court’s ruling, which was made public on Jan. 4, marks the first time in Taiwan’s history that LGBTQ+ spouses have been permitted to adopt a non-biological child unrelated to either party.

While same-sex couples have been permitted to marry in Taiwan since May 2019—a first for Asia—those rights were somewhat limited. The country’s marriage equality law, known as the Act for Implementation of Judicial Yuan Interpretation No. 748, allows for adoption in cases of a genetic relationship but does not detail the legality of other arrangements.

In spite of the lack of guidance, the family court in Kaohsiung, a port city located along Taiwan’s southern coast, ruled it “inappropriate to give a negative or discriminatory interpretation of the provision,” according to the Taipei Times newspaper.

The battle has been a long one for the couple, who put off tying the knot while Wang filed to adopt Joujou. Wang submitted the application in 2017 and was approved three years later. Because Chen had no legal ties to the child, he was unable to be with Wang and Joujou when she was hospitalized with a urinary tract infection in 2020, as the Taiwanese news outlet Business Today reports.

But despite their recent victory, Wang noted that the family’s fight isn’t over. The court ruling is specific to Joujou, he said, and won’t apply to other cases.

“The key is having the law revised,” Wang wrote in a Facebook post cited by the LGBTQ+ news outlet Washington Blade. “If our family wants to adopt another child, will we have to go through the same process again and gamble on which judicial affairs officer we get? Or will the law have been amended so it won’t be so hard for everybody?”

LGBTQ+ advocacy groups said they will keep lobbying to ensure that no one faces discriminatory burdens while expanding their family. Under the current guidelines, the only way that a married same-sex couple can adopt is by divorcing and remarrying after one of the individuals has filed adoption paperwork. And even if the application is successful, they still will not be able to share legal parentage of their child.

“We hope the rulings serve as a reminder to government officials and lawmakers that the current unfair legal conditions need to be changed,” said Jennifer Lu, executive director for the non-profit Taiwan Equality Campaign, in a statement cited by the news wire Agence France-Presse.

 

While an estimated 6,000 same-sex couples have walked down the aisle since marriage equality was recognized three years ago, the organization says several families have been through the same struggles as Wang and Chen. At least two couples have reportedly had their adoption petitions denied by local family courts in Taiwan, but activists said they plan to appeal in light of the recent ruling.

Advocates have found some previous success in challenging the limitations of Taiwan’s equal marriage legislation. Although the law does not allow Taiwanese citizens to marry foreign nationals from countries that have yet to recognize same-sex unions, a pair of Taiwanese-Macanese and Taiwanese-Singaporean couples were wed last year.

Meanwhile, legislation to address the blindspots in Taiwan’s same-sex marriage laws has stalled in the country’s parliament, known as the Legislative Yuan, for more than a year, according to The Guardian

Wang called the situation “really absurd,” but the couple expressed optimism that things would change in the future. “I hope that our first story of victory as a gay couple will serve as a foundation for the full practice of fair, equal treatment for other LGBT families,” Chen added in comments to the U.K. newspaper.

Nico Lang

Nico Lang is an award-winning reporter and editor, and former contributing editor at Xtra. Their work has been featured in the New York Times, Rolling Stone, Esquire, Harper’s Bazaar, Washington Post, Vox, BuzzFeed, Jezebel, The Guardian, Out, The Advocate, and the L.A. Times.

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