Bid to grant transgender marriage rights defeated in Legco

Legco motion also called for gender recognition law to deal with sex reassignment legal issues

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 October, 2013, 4:24am
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 October, 2013, 4:34am

A legislator's motion calling for a law enabling transgender marriages and a gender recognition ordinance was voted down yesterday after the government appealed its rejection.

The 18-29 vote with 11 abstentions came almost six months after a post-surgery transsexual won the right to marry her boyfriend in a landmark case in the Court of First Instance that gave the government a year to decide whether a law was needed.

The various political camps were divided on the matter, reflecting the sensitivity of issues to do with sex in Hong Kong.

The non-binding motion, moved by the legislature's first openly gay lawmaker, Raymond Chan Chi-chuen, called on the government to amend the Marriage Ordinance and the Matrimonial Causes Ordinance so that transgender people could enjoy marriage rights. It also sought a gender recognition ordinance to deal with legal issues arising from sex reassignment.

Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok said the government did not have a preconceived stance. "But at the moment, before all the information, research, discussion and a consensus on the issue, it would be best to keep the status quo," he said.

In May, the top court gave a transsexual, known only as W, the right to marry as a woman.

It also gave the government a year to decided whether marriage laws needed to be amended to reflect the ruling that the definition of "woman" includes a "post-operative male-to-female transsexual".

Lawmaker Cyd Ho Sau-lan said it wasn't just about sexual minorities but about the right to get married and have a family.

"You're allowed to have the surgery in Hong Kong, but there are no laws to secure your rights afterwards," Ho said.

Pro-establishment lawmaker Priscilla Leung Mei-fun said the feelings of and effects on other people in society needed to be taken into consideration.

University of Hong Kong associate professor Sam Winter, a director of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, said that dividing transsexuals into those who had surgery and those who didn't "has very important rights implications".

"It means that we don't give you the right to be regarded as a woman or man unless you do the surgery. [This] undermines the patient's free consent, and puts pressure on them to do the surgery. No doctor would want to be part of this; I wouldn't," he said.