On Tuesday, Hong Kong’s apex court proclaimed that the local government should delineate a framework to acknowledge same-sex partnerships. This decree is a momentous verdict for the city’s LGBTQ+ populace.
Though the judgment fell short of bestowing full marital rights to same-sex pairs, it marked a significant win for renowned pro-democracy advocate Jimmy Sham. He had been entrenched in a half-decade legal tussle seeking acknowledgment for overseas-registered same-sex nuptials.
After tying the knot with his partner in New York in 2013, Sham contended that Hong Kong’s non-recognition of such marriages abroad infringes upon the fundamental right to equality.
Champions of equality perceived the court’s decision as a leap forward, potentially enhancing Hong Kong’s image as a welcoming and inclusive metropolis.
The Supreme Court’s written decree, supported by a majority, clarified that the lack of an alternative legal framework for acknowledging same-sex unions, like civil unions or registered partnerships, is a failing on the government’s part. Justice Patrick Keane noted the lack of recognition can “disrupt and demean” these relationships.
However, the court did proffer the government a two-year window to realign with the directive, even as they unanimously overruled Sham’s ultimate plea on facets related to the acceptance of foreign same-sex unions.
The city only acknowledges same-sex marriages in specific contexts like taxation and civil service perks. With increasing societal acceptance, a 2023 survey highlighted that 60 percent of participants backed same-sex marriage, a notable surge from the 38 percent recorded in 2013.
Jerome Yau, co-founder of Hong Kong Marriage Equality, opined that this judgment reinforces the worthiness of same-sex relationships and strengthens the city’s global standing.
Resident Travis Chow expressed optimism about his future in the city, stating, “This is happy and encouraging.”
Though the verdict carries weight for LGBTQ+ rights in Asia, gender studies expert Suen Yiu-tong expressed disappointment over the court’s hesitancy to recognize same-sex marriages fully.
Jimmy Sham’s journey has been tumultuous, facing charges under a national security statute introduced by Beijing after the 2019 pro-democracy demonstrations. Sham once helmed the Civil Human Rights Front, known for orchestrating major political protests and annual marches marking Hong Kong’s transition to Chinese governance in 1997. Sadly, the group was dissolved in 2021 amidst tightening security regulations.
In a related story, Canada has warned LGBTQ+ travelers to the United States.