Gay community finds haven for marriage

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 July, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 01 July, 2005, 12:00am

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE is an issue that has divided Canadians, but has offered a ray of hope to Hong Kong's homosexual community. That has been especially true since last Tuesday when the House of Commons passed the landmark Bill C-38 that will officially legalise same-sex marriage nationwide when the senate approves it, likely within days.

About eight of 10 provinces and one of three territories have legalised same-sex marriages since 2003 on regional levels, with the Supreme Court of Canada ruling last year that it was constitutional.

Some same-sex Hong Kong partners have already taken advantage of the opportunity, with civil rights activist Roddy Shaw and Nelson Ng being one high-profile couple who wed in 2003 in Ontario.

Yeo Wai-wai, a spokeswoman for Rainbow Action, said she had received more than 12 inquiries in recent months from people interested in marrying their same-sex partners in Canada.

She said Canada was the easiest place for same-sex couples from Hong Kong to marry because many had family and friends there. And unlike in the Netherlands and Belgium, the two other countries that recognise same-sex couples' full right to marry, there is no citizenship or residency requirement to obtain a marriage certificate in Canada. Gerry Campbell, Canada's consul-general in Hong Kong, said the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was at the centre of the debate.

'Rights are equal for everybody. You can't pick and choose which ones you're going to stand by ... We're a relatively open, tolerant multicultural society. I suppose this [same-sex marriage] is consistent with that.'

Robyn Emerton, research assistant professor in the law faculty at the University of Hong Kong, said there were many reasons why the government should legalise same-sex marriages.

' [Lesbians and gays] are part of our society - a valuable part of society. It is for the whole of society to accept all its members,' she said. 'Lesbian and gay couples are unlikely to want to return to Hong Kong if their marriage is not legally recognised here, having been granted equal rights ... in Canada. This will be Hong Kong's loss - supposedly 'Asia's world city' seeking to attract the best talent internationally.'

Hong Kong is a long way from considering same-sex marriages, but Ms Emerton said the latest development would put pressure on the Hong Kong government.

Additional reporting by Reggie Ho