The government’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage soon is a win for the people of the world, Canadian Trade Office in Taipei Director of General Relations Michael McCulloch said on Sunday, when asked to comment on the bill the Executive Yuan has sent to the legislature.
The decision made him feel “very hopeful as a person,” he said.
“The reason why it does is human rights is not guaranteed anywhere in the world,” he said. “It’s like a win for the people of the world.”
Canada went through the same phase, between 2003 and 2005, that Taiwan is in at the moment, he said.
Canada was the first non-European nation to legalize same-sex marriage.
Same-sex marriage was introduced in several provinces through court decisions, starting in 2003, before being legalized nationwide with the enactment of the Civil Marriage Act on July 20, 2005.
However, before the enactment of that law, many Canadians were not supportive of the rights of LGBTI people, but that changed over time and now the vast majority of Canadians are in favor of marriage equality, McCulloch said.
He said he does not share the concerns expressed by some conservative groups that legalizing same-sex marriage would fundamentally change Taiwanese society.
“I don’t think it’s going to change your society,” McCulloch said. “It’s not going to change your institutions; it’s not going to change your traditions. What it is going to do is make all of those things more inclusive for everyone.”
Canadians today are still the same people they were before the enactment of the Civil Marriage Act, he said.
“Our families are still loving, warm and welcoming,” he said. “It’s just that now more people have the right to love whom they want.”
One of the reasons he chose his posting in Taipei was because he was proud to see democracy in action in Taiwan, he said.
His first visit to Taiwan was in March 2014, when students led a 23-day occupation of the legislature in protest against a lack of transparency in a trade-in-services agreement between Taiwan and China, McCulloch said.
He was visiting to attend a human rights workshop and was deeply impressed with the nation’s young democracy, he said.
As a professor of international human rights law, he found Taiwan a “remarkable” place, where democracy was on the rise even as it was in decline in several places around the world, he said.
Taiwan is a symbol of hope with a “refreshing” democracy, McCulloch said.
McCulloch is also an accomplished musician and singer.
Music and songwriting fit into his career as a diplomat, he said.
“As diplomats, part of our work is about sharing stories, and music is about telling stories,” McCulloch said.
“As musicians, we tell stories about where we are from, the people we know, our lives,” he said.
After McCulloch took up his post 18 months ago, he began writing a song called Sunrise Over Yangmingshan, which he said encompasses his experience of trekking in the mountain around Taipei.
It is one of about a dozen songs that he plans to finish in about a month’s time and hopes to perform at a summer concert, he said.