Hong Kong Rules Against Same-Sex Civil Unions

The decision is a disappointing setback for the LGBTQ community in Hong Kong.

A court in Hong Kong ruled against same-sex civil unions on Friday, October 18.

Hong Kong government policy does not provide civil partnerships to gay couples. A lesbian woman, known as MK, was challenging that law in court. She claimed that the government’s denial of same-sex civil unions or marriage violated her constitutional rights.

The Court of First Instance ruled against MK and upheld the original policy. The court found that MK’s argument was not “sufficiently strong or compelling.”

Judge Anderson Chow also said that it was “beyond the proper scope” of the court to change such a major social policy. He wrote in the ruling: “It is obvious that were the court to ‘update’ the meaning of ‘marriage’ to include… same-sex marriage, it would be introducing a new social policy on a fundamental issue with far-reaching legal, social and economic consequences and ramifications.”

The decision is a disappointing setback for the LGBTQ community in Hong Kong. Five months earlier, Taiwan had become the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage, leading to widespread hope that other countries might follow suit.

“This result is deeply disappointing but will not dampen the fight for LGBTI rights in Hong Kong,” Amnesty International director Man-kei Tam told Pink News. “We stand in solidarity with LGBTI people in Hong Kong and all those who bravely campaign for equal rights.”

Although same-sex couples cannot marry in Hong Kong, gay couples who have been legally married elsewhere are entitled to spousal visas. Support for LGBTQ rights is also on the rise in the country. A 2018 poll found that half of residents support gay marriage, compared with just 38 percent in 2013.

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