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Hong Kong just ruled against same-sex civil partnerships

Emma Powys Maurice October 18, 2019

A same-sex couple at event to raise awareness of LGBT+ rights in Hong Kong (Philip Fong/AFP/Getty)

A Hong Kong court has turned down a judicial challenge against a government policy which denies civil partnerships to same-sex couples.

On Friday, October 18, the Court of First Instance ruled against a lesbian woman – known only as MK – who pushed for a change in the law.

The anonymous woman had complained that the government’s failure to provide the options of marriage or civil union partnerships had violated her constitutional rights.

But the court ruled that her argument was not “sufficiently strong or compelling” enough for a revised reading of the law that would include a marriage between two persons of the same sex.

Members of Hong Kong’s growing LGBT+ community celebrating Pride (Isaac Lawrence/AFP/Getty)

Judge Anderson Chow said that the government did not violate MK’s constitutional rights in denying her same-sex marriage, or in its failure to provide a legal framework for recognising same-sex relationships, such as civil unions.

He added: “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.”

Amnesty International Hong Kong described the court’s ruling as “a bitter blow” to Hong Kong’s LGBT+ community, who had hoped the city would follow the lead of Taiwan, which recently became the first country in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage.

Taiwan recently became the first country in Asia to legalise same-sex marriages (Sam Yeh/AFP/Getty)

“This result is deeply disappointing but will not dampen the fight for LGBTI rights in Hong Kong,” said Amnesty International director Man-kei Tam.

“We stand in solidarity with LGBTI people in Hong Kong and all those who bravely campaign for equal rights. The Hong Kong authorities must stop stigmatising people based on who they are and immediately undertake a thorough review of all laws, policies and practices in order to end any discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status.

“This judgment must not be used as an excuse to further undermine the rights of LGBTI people. The Hong Kong government needs to step up and take all necessary measures to deliver equality and dignity for all, regardless of who people love.”

Support for same-sex marriage in Hong Kong has been growing as attitudes have changed over recent years.

A 2018 poll conducted by the University of Hong Kong poll found that 50 percent of respondents backed the right of gay couples to wed, while support on other LGBT+ issues reached nearly 80 percent.

More: Hong Kong, same sex marriage, Taiwan

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