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  • Dec 19, 2014
  • Updated: 6:09pm
NewsHong Kong

Gay marriage hurdles put happy family to the test

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 03 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 03 August, 2013, 5:00am

They fell in love at first sight. They have been together for 22 years, married 10 years ago, and have a young son. But they are not your average family.

Nine-year-old Ethan, an adopted Chinese boy, has two fathers. "Dada" is Walter Jennings, a 51-year-old American. "Papa" is Santo Rizzuto, 49, an Australian-born Italian. The family arrived in Hong Kong in 2009.

"When we go to supermarkets in a non-Western area, a lot of people see us and I think what interests them most is that we have a Chinese child," says Jennings, a managing partner for Greater China at a strategic communications company.

The couple chose a Chinese child to adopt because they wanted a girl and thought there would be more options for abandoned baby girls than boys.

But surprisingly Ethan, a bright little boy who regularly jumps into the conversation, came to them.

"My classmates just keep asking if I have a mum," Ethan says. And when asked whether he has ever wanted a mum, he replies: "I don't think about this."

It's just fun having two dads, he says.

But as Hong Kong does not recognise same-sex marriages, Rizzuto needs a tourist visa that must be renewed every six months. It also means he cannot work or study in the city and is now a stay-at-home dad.

And if the family remains in Hong Kong, only Ethan and Jennings can apply to be permanent residents.

"As many countries in the world are making progress in recognising same-sex marriage, perhaps one day Hong Kong will also," says Jennings.

Earlier this year the new chairman of the Equal Opportunities Commission, Dr York Chow Yat-ngok, promised to make legislation to ensure gay rights a priority during his three-year term.

The government has been criticised by gay-rights activists for procrastinating on developing laws protecting and empowering sexual minorities.

Chow said the government would inevitably have to address the issue of same-sex marriage after it was legalised by a string of countries. But he said that in Hong Kong's traditional society, a civil union - which gives most of the legal rights of marriage - could be an alternative.

As for Jennings and Rizzuto, they have found Hongkongers to be welcoming. "In Hong Kong, it's a little bit easier for an expat because everyone assumes expats are a little strange anyway," says Jennings

Jennings and Rizzuto met in 1991 in Sydney at the annual gay and lesbian festival. After 12 years together, they were married in Canada in 2003. They adopted Ethan the following year when he was only nine months old, when they were living in the US.

Surprisingly, the couple never experienced strong opposition from their families, even though Rizzuto has a traditional Italian background.

"Our problems are exactly the same as any relationship," Jennings says. "I remember once we had a big fight over broccoli. I went to the grocery store and I bought broccoli and Santo was like, 'I told you we don't need broccoli, why did you buy it'. We are just like any couple that fights over stupid things."



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This article is now closed to comments

Gay couples can make super parents, no question. I've seen precisely that. Is adoption into a gay household better for an orphan than staying orphaned? No question. But is the loss of the opportunity of having a mum a loss to the child, sure is. Heterosexual parents should get priority in the queue for orphans. Sad for aspiring gay parents but probably better for the children in the long run. But the right to marry for g a y s, absolutely, and the right to parent orphans, definitely.
Yet another social issue on which HK is behind the curve. No doubt our so-called leadership hide behind the need for consensus before moving forward on gay marriage, adoption, etc, etc, etc, instead of providing leadership.
Asia's World City.
Yeah, right.
For the record, in my original post, I used the word g a y s and it came out as four asterisks ****. Now they've "fixed" it by spacing out the letters but it is really shocking that they have set their censorship filtering software to treat the word as an expletive. Extreme discrimination, surely.
An Australian-born Italian? Isn't a person born in Australia an Australian? If I'm wrong then I apologize. If I'm not, then what's with the adjectives?
And ABC - American-born-Chinese, is bad international English as well??
Sighs. It is bad international English, perhaps the editor-in-chief didn't proof read the article before printing. Bad International English on any English Newspapers gives an impression of unreliable news. It depicts low quality newspaper edition. SAD.
What are you doing, Post? Censoring the word G A Y S ?????
"Heterosexual parents should get priority in the queue for orphans."
Not really. Sometimes the parents' backgrounds also matter. I have seen a single woman gets an orphan over a heterosexual couple since the heterosexual couple's background is a bit complicated while the single woman's background is nothing special. Sometimes financial independence also plays important part in the right to parent orphans.


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