Transgender people in Hong Kong who have undergone full gender-reassignment surgeries will be able to marry from today, despite legislative stalling.
Last year, a trans woman known as ‘W’ won a three-year-long legal battle for the right to marry her boyfriend. The Court of Final Appeal (CFA) decreed that the government should be allowed a year to make the necessary legal changes, but added that W could still marry if the changes were delayed.
Fourteen months later, the bill is yet to pass through Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (Legco), and it has been announced that this will not occur before Legco enters its summer recess. However, the CFA ruling means that from today, transgender people who have undergone surgery can marry regardless.
“The bill is still pending resumption of the second and third readings by the Legco after the summer recess,” a government spokesperson said. “Nonetheless, the Court of Final Appeal Order comes into effect on July 17.
“Persons who have received full-sex reassignment surgery will, starting from the same day, be treated by the Registrar of Marriages as being of the sex to which they are reassigned after the surgery for the purpose of marriage registration.”
The bill has been delayed by objections that it equates to a legalisation of same-sex marriage, which remains banned in Hong Kong. This is despite court rulings which clearly state that the two issues should be kept distinct.
Solicitor Michael Vidler, who represented W, criticised the “insulting” stalling tactics. He said: “The CFA suspended W’s rights for that length of time to allow the government to introduce comprehensive legislation within that time – not to set up a committee to undertake consultation for two years. It made this clear in the judgement.”
When the bill does pass, it will apply only to people who have undergone full surgery. The Security Bureau has said that an interdepartmental working group has been set up to “follow up on various issues left open”, but declines to comment on allegations of delaying tactics.
He is supported in this aim by the Law Society, Amnesty International and the Equal Opportunities Commission, who noted that the required surgeries remain dangerous and even life-threatening in Hong Kong.
Joanne Leung Wing-yan, chairwoman of the Transgender Resource Centre, described the bill as having “lots of holes and ambiguity”. She suggested that more time to debate the bill after the recess might be positive, and warned: “Passing a problematic bill would mean more trouble later.”
She estimated that the new marriage regulations would affect between 200 and 300 transgender people.