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Legal recognition for same-sex partnerships. Order of Hong Kong’s top court

Legal recognition for same-sex partnerships. Order of Hong Kong’s top court

Image source: © canva
Natalia Witulska,
06.09.2023 11:45

Hong Kong's top court has ordered the city’s government to set new legal standards for same-sex relationships. LGBT activists celebrate a small victory.

Homosexual couples have been fighting for their rights for years. They want to be able to get married and legalise their relationships. Although there are still quite a few countries in the world that do not plan to change their attitude towards LGBT minorities, some are opening up to non-heteronormative people.

On Tuesday 5 September, a historic decision was made in Hong Kong. Five judges of the Court of Appeal decided to establish legal standards for civil union partnerships. LGBT activists claim a small victory after years of battling for their rights.

New approach to same-sex couples in Hong Kong

LGBT activists have been fighting the Hong Kong government for years. This is because the latter does not recognise marriages or same-sex unions despite the fact that homosexuality was decriminalised in the city in 1991. On Tuesday 5 September, however, they managed to score a small victory.

Although the Hong Kong top court refused to recognise same-sex marriages, it ordered the city to formulate "an alternative legal framework". The government has two years to comply with the ruling, CNN reports.

Activists had hoped that the court would rule that denying same-sex couples marriage violates the protection of equal rights in the city's mini-constitution. The judges stressed that marriage is guaranteed by the mini-constitution, but currently only applies to "heterosexual marriage". It is for this reason that the court has ordered the city to create new legal norms that will take into account couples who wish to enter into a same-sex civil union partnership.

A spokesperson for the Hong Kong government said in a media interview that there was no need to comment on the ruling for the time being. An official statement is not expected until the court has finished receiving submissions on what steps to take next in the case.

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Hong Kong LGBT activists fight back

As reported by edition.cnn.com, LGBT activists have repeatedly appealed to the courts to fight for their rights. These have often sided with them, stressing that the city's mini-constitution provides same-sex couples with protection and equality, something they have sometimes been denied. Activists say that despite this, neither the government nor the legislature have been open to a more liberal approach to same-sex couples.

It is precisely because the Hong Kong authorities did not take any notice of lower court rulings, the activists appealed to the Supreme Court. Tuesday's decision gave them a lot of hope, and they are waiting for its far-reaching consequences. For now, however, they do not know what to expect, as the authorities have not responded to the case in any way.

"It’s a major step forward and landmark decision. I understand it’s not full marriage equality but all things considered, it’s a good decision," Jerome Yau, co-founder of Hong Kong Marriage Equality, told CNN in an interview.

The fight for equal rights for LGBT minorities in Asia is still ongoing in most countries on the continent. It should be noted that only Taiwan and Nepal recognise and allow same-sex unions. Polls in Hong Kong show that, especially among young people, a growing support for non-heteronormative relationships is growing. However, the city authorities are leaning towards conservative views by officially opposing same-sex marriage mirroring the same opposition in mainland China.

The case of LGBT activist Jimmy Sham Tsz-kit

As we read on edition.cnn.com, the case that led to Tuesday's ruling was brought by now-detained pro-democracy activist Jimmy Sham Tsz-kit in 2019. The liberal activist has repeatedly organised rallies against the government, attracting hundreds of thousands of people.

Sham Tsz-kit's organisation was disbanded in 2021. At that time, Hong Kong authorities imposed a national security law, which critics say stifled dissent and destroyed the democracy movement. The activist, who was detained in 2019, has also repeatedly organised rallies in support of LGBT minorities.

Jimmy Sham Tsz-kit has been in a relationship with his partner since 2011. He married him in New York in 2013 and wanted to have his marriage recognised as legal in Hong Kong as well. His determination led to an appeal to the Supreme Court, resulting in Tuesday's ruling.

Source: edition.cnn.com, bbc.com

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