Hong Kong Court Sends Mixed Messages in LGBTQ Equality Cases
A Hong Kong court provided mixed messages about protection for LGBTQ rights in the Asian financial hub, ruling in favor of inheritance for a gay homeowner but refusing to recognize same-sex marriages.
The High Court granted Edgar Ng the right to equal home ownership with his husband under Hong Kong law. Ng applied for judicial review in November 2019 after finding out that his husband, Henry Li Yik-ho, would be unable to inherit their home as the marriage wasn’t legally recognized in Hong Kong. It was purchased under the government’s Home Ownership Scheme.
Separately, the High Court rejected a bid by Hong Kong civic rights activist Jimmy Sham, who filed a lawsuit for the city to recognize foreign same-sex marriages. Sham argued that the government’s decision not to recognize marriages performed overseas -- like his, registered in New York -- violated the right to equality guaranteed by Article 25 of Hong Kong’s Basic Law.
Justice Anderson Chow ruled on both cases Friday, a year after he asserted that as same-sex marriage rights aren’t legally recognized in Hong Kong, it was not considered unconstitutional to deny the rights. He said the government has no obligation to create a framework to guarantee same-sex marriages equal treatment under the law.
The decisions follow a favorable ruling earlier this year for LGBTQ rights in Hong Kong. In March, the court banned the Hong Kong government from denying same-sex couples the right to apply for public housing.
A study published this year by the Chinese University of Hong Kong found that only 12% of respondents disapproved of providing legal protection for the LGBTQ community, down from 35% in 2016.
Hong Kong Marriage Equality, a group promoting LGBTQ rights, called the decision in Ng’s case an important victory while acknowledging how much further they have to go.
“It sends a clear signal to society that unequal treatment of same-sex couples is not justified,” the group said.
Conversely, Sham’s loss in court reflects the “increasingly challenging” nature of the legal fight for same-sex marriage in Hong Kong, he said
“While many places in the world have already recognized same-sex marriage, Hong Kong is obviously lagging behind,” Sham said in an interview.