Gay rights 'a right, not a matter of opinion'

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 January, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 January, 2005, 12:00am

Lawmakers yesterday warned the government against using an opinion poll on attitudes towards homosexuals as an excuse not to introduce anti-discrimination legislation.

The government is due to conduct a telephone survey of public attitudes towards problems faced by people of different sexual orientations in the second quarter of this year.

Deputy Secretary for Home Affairs Stephen Fisher told yesterday's home affairs panel meeting that the survey would look at the possibility of a law banning discrimination based on people's sexual orientation.

But welfare sector lawmaker Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung said protection of the rights of homosexuals should not be contingent upon public perceptions.

'It is a basic human right - whether or not to protect basic human rights principles should not be dependent upon public opinion.

'Even if people hate or love homosexuals, we have to protect their rights to equal opportunity, to employment and other rights.'

But Mr Fisher said the government had to seek the support of the public and of Legco to ensure the law would pass.

'There must be public support and public opinion grounds to enact legislation, as well as the support of legislators,' Mr Fisher said. 'We have not obtained the two yet, so that is what the [Home Affairs Bureau] hopes to achieve.'

Frontier lawmaker Emily Lau Wai-hing and panel chairman Tommy Cheung Yu-yan also urged the government to ensure diverse representation on the three-member panel overseeing the poll.

Mr Fisher said the bureau would consider the recommendation, but that members of the panel would be independent to ensure the survey is scientific, open and fair.