Taiwan is feeling the pressure to pass pending legislation to allow same-sex marriage following the tragic death of a beloved French professor.
As a result, Taiwan may become the first East Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage. The death of French-born professor Jacques Picoux is shedding light on the kinds of challenges that same-sex couples face while living in Asian countries that refuse to officially recognize their partners.
The 67-year-old fell to his death from the top floor of a 10-story apartment building in Taipei, according to Taipei police. He was found dead outside the building and law enforcement are ruling out homicide or foul play based on a lack of evidence of a fight or struggle.
Picoux, a well-known artist in Taiwan, was believed to be in a state of depression following the death of his partner of 35 years Tseng Ching-chao. Tseng passed away from cancer nearly a year ago.
The couple’s unrecognized status kept Picoux from making significant medical decisions for Tseng’s cancer treatment. In addition, he was unable to legally take ownership of their shared home and savings.
A former student of Picoux shared their story as well as photos of Jacques and his partner on Facebook in October of last year. Since they were not legally married, the couple were essentially unrelated strangers by the law. The day Tseng passed, Picoux “refused to eat and kept drinking vodka. Slept, woke up and cried.”
The tragedy of Picoux’s death is provoking a public outcry. Taiwan’s ruling Democractic Progressive Party (DPP) drafted a bill to reform family rights law to include same-sex couples last month. Sympathizers and supporters are pushing for the passage of the Marriage Equality Act, which would make Taiwan the first East Asian country to recognize same-sex marriage.
According to CNN, Taiwan has a large gay community and is the most progressive in supporting LGBT rights. The country also hosts the largest annual gay pride parade in Asia. In addition, sex between partners of the same gender is legal and modifying one’s legal gender is allowed. Discrimination based on sexual orientation is prohibited in public places like workplaces and schools.