Gay rights issue may be put to the public

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 March, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 March, 2006, 12:00am

A consultation paper on a law banning discrimination against homosexuals will be considered to provide more information on the issue, lawmakers were told yesterday as they pressed for a more detailed white paper to reassure the public.

The legislator for the legal sector, Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee, said there appeared to be many misconceptions in sectors of the community about what such an anti-discrimination law would entail. Much opposition to the proposal was based on such misgivings.

Deputy Secretary for Home Affairs Stephen Fisher told the Legislative Council's home affairs panel that many people objected to legislation because they believed such a law would be the first step towards legalising gay marriages and that religious groups would no longer 'be free to speak their mind' on homosexuality. Ms Ng said it was the government's responsibility to tackle such misconceptions.

'You talk about needing community support - the best way to gauge that is to publish a white bill to tell people they do not need to worry about the wrong things. A white bill is not a genuine bill and won't require a timetable for introducing legislation but will form a solid basis for discussion.'

Mr Fisher agreed that more discussion was required and said the government would 'surely consider a white bill'.

'Our normal practice is to issue a consultation paper which provides a lot more information and sets out options we can consider - we have to consider whether it is the right time to conduct a massive consultation,' Mr Fisher said.

Frontier lawmaker Emily Lau Wai-hing said the results of a survey on public attitudes towards homosexuality showed there was a serious need for legislation.

A government survey of 2,040 people found 26.5 per cent of respondents saying they had no contact with homosexuals while only 4.8 said they had frequent contact.

Yeo Wai-wai of the Women's Coalition of Hong Kong said the figure showed that 'closeting' was a problem in Hong Kong because gays feared social rejection.