Hong Kong gay couple marry in NZ

Women are among first to say I do in the first Asia-Pacific nation to legalise same-sex marriage

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 September, 2013, 3:30am

Two Hong Kong women have tied the knot in New Zealand after a new gay marriage law took effect there last month.

Three couples from the mainland have also exchanged vows.

They are among 82 same-sex couples who have got married since the law came into force on August 19, making New Zealand only the 14th nation in the world, and the first in the Asia-Pacific region, to legalise same-sex marriage.

According to its Department of Internal Affairs, 24 of the couples travelled from abroad, with the majority hailing from Australia.

Another four came from Thailand, while one couple came from Britain, another from the United States, and there was also a Filipino-American couple.

Of the 82 weddings, 42 involved women and 40 men.

The registrar-general of births, deaths and marriages, Jeff Montgomery, said: "We are seeing continued national and international interest by same-sex couples in getting married in New Zealand.

"We expect the number of same-sex weddings to increase as we move into spring."

The legislation's passage through the New Zealand parliament in April was greeted by lawmakers with a traditional Maori song.

Leaders of the lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender (LGBT) community in Hong Kong have repeatedly called on the government to legalise gay marriage.

"The government doesn't recognise any civil unions or marriages, even those from overseas," said Betty Grisoni, founder of Les Peches, Hong Kong's largest lesbian organisation.

"Marriage is a basic human right," she added.

According to Grisoni, the government is generally not supportive of the gay community and has yet to pass an antidiscrimination law, which would prevent the arbitrary dismissal of gay employees because of their sexuality.

However, the situation is improving, she said.

On Thursday, Equal Opportunities Commission chairman Dr York Chow Yat-ngok said the commission would conduct a survey next year to gauge the level of discrimination faced by members of the LGBT community.

While female homosexuality has always been legal in Hong Kong, male homosexuality was illegal until 1991.

During the colonial period, gay men in Hong Kong could be sentenced to life in prison because of their sexuality.

New Zealand decriminalised homosexuality in 1986 and approved same-sex civil unions in 2005.

Additional reporting Agence France-Presse