This week, Hong Kong Court of Final Appeals ruled that a gay official and his husband were permitted to spousal benefits and joint tax returns despite that same-sex marriage is still illegal in the city. Senior immigration officer, Angus Leung, sued the government in 2015 after the government refused to grant his husband spousal benefits. Leung’s supporters celebrated the four year lawsuit as an incremental but necessary victory.
Mr. Leung legally married his husband, Scott Adams, in 2014 in New Zealand. But he filed a judicial review when Hong Kong’s Civil Service Bureau refused to change his marital status and grant his spouse benefits such as dental and medical coverage. Raymond Chan, Hong Kong’s first openly gay lawmaker wrote in a Medium post that, “The court has made it possible for all other current and future civil servants to enjoy the rights they should be entitled to.”
This historic ruling is only a small stepping stone in the fight for equality for the LGBT minority in the city and comes shortly after another victory that abolished four offences which criminalized sex between men. The court reviewed and changed the interpretation of three offences finally ruling in favor of LGBT activist, Yeung Chu-wing, who brought the lawsuit against the government. The charges under scrutiny criminalized sexual acts specifically committed by homosexual men that were otherwise legal for heterosexuals and even in certain cases, lesbians. Hong Kong’s High Court declared four out of the seven offences unconstitutional.
Mr. Leung and Yeung Chu-wing’s victories for the LBGT community in Hong Kong are the recent examples of another Asian government expanding rights for same-sex couples. These victories come in the wake of Taiwan’s monumental bill legalizing same-sex marriages on May 17th, 2019. Taiwan became the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage and serves as a beacon of hope for others fighting for equality in neighboring cities like Hong Kong.
Media Resources: NY Times 6/6/19, BBC 6/6/19, Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal 2019, Office of Raymond Chan (Medium) 6/5/19, South China Morning Post 5/30/19