Women's group fears setback for gay rights

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 10 January, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 10 January, 2009, 12:00am

If the growing opposition on religious grounds to an amendment extending the Domestic Violence Ordinance's provisions to same-sex couples results in it being voted down, it would be 'sacrificing gay rights', a women's rights group said yesterday.

The Hong Kong Women's Coalition on Equal Opportunities urged legislators to pass the amendment without delay. Lawmakers will discuss the measure today.

The law, enacted in 1986, enables a party to a marriage, or someone cohabiting with a member of the opposite sex, to seek a court injunction to prevent their partner abusing them.

There was cross-party support for the amendment until Democratic Party legislator Wong Sing-chi departed from his party's line and said he would vote against the amendment on religious grounds.

Mr Wong, a Christian, said he changed his mind after realising the amendment would give legal recognition to same-sex relationships.

That led to a row among pan-democrats and prompted other political parties to say they might rethink their stance. Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, head of the Hong Kong Catholic diocese, weighed in on the row, saying that extending the law to same-sex couples could undermine the foundations of Hong Kong society.

Au Mei-po, spokeswoman for the women's group, hit out at the opposition to the amendment.

'It is to deprive one's human right in the name of religion. It is to exclude gays from being protected by the law and it is sacrificing gay rights,' she said.

The government, in a discussion paper prepared for today's meeting of the Legislative Council's welfare services panel, reiterates its policy of not legally recognising same-sex relationships.