Friday, 28 April 2017

Hong Kong Landmark Ruling on Same-Sex Marriage

There is a strong gay community in Hong Kong, along with its supporters
Breaking News -- A married gay civil servant is now entitled to the same spousal benefits as a heterosexual couple in Hong Kong.

The landmark ruling came down today which could have a massive ripple effect in all sectors, as for a long time the government refused to acknowledge benefits in same-sex marriages.

The High Court refused the Civil Service Bureau's argument that it was denying benefits for same-sex spouses to protect "the integrity of the institution of marriage".

In 2014, senior immigration officer Leung Chun-kwong married his partner Scott Adams in New Zealand. But when Leung tried to change his marital status to be eligible for spousal benefits back in Hong Kong, he was refused, and so he launched a lawsuit against the secretary for the civil service and the commissioner of the Inland Revenue Department.

The High Court ruled a gay couple is entitled to benefits
While the court ruled in favour with Leung with regards to the CSB, he lost his case with the Revenue Department.

In his 44-page judgment, Mr Justice Anderson Chow Ka-ming called the bureau's policy "indirect discrimination" and rejected its assertion that the secretary had a justifiable aim "to act in line with the prevailing marriage law of Hong Kong" and not to "undermine the integrity of the institution of marriage... hence safeguarding public order".

Chow wrote: "I am unable to see how denial of 'spousal' benefits to homosexual couples... legally married under foreign laws could or would serve the purpose of not undermining the integrity of the institution of marriage in Hong Kong, or protecting the institution of the traditional family."

Leung said the court's decision had wide-ranging implications. "The government is the biggest employer. The whole of Hong Kong will follow [this decision]."

He urged the government to review its policies and update them instead of wait for legal challenges, a process, he said was stressful, expensive and time consuming.

Rainbow-coloured lions have conservatives very worried!
"We were not asking for special treatment. We simply wanted to be treated fairly and with dignity," he said, adding that the court had "recognized and rectified a fundamental unfairness".

The bureau says it is reviewing the decision with the Justice Department, while the Equal Opportunities Commission urges the government to review its policies and extend equal rights to sexual minorities.

However, when it came to the Inland Revenue Department, Leung was unable to change his marital status to same-sex marriage because a provision in the Inland Revenue Ordinance states clearly that a marriage is between a man and a woman.

Nevertheless, we finally a decision that drags Hong Kong into the 21st century. The city is a fiscally liberal one, and so should its society. Christian conservatives are going to be terrified by this ruling -- they can't even stand having rainbow-coloured replica lions at HSBC in Central.

But this is the reality -- there are same-sex couples in Hong Kong and they deserve to be treated equally under the law. And now they do legally.

Case closed? We hope so.

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