Sex-change brides and grooms on the cards for Hong Kong

Landmark court ruling on marriages will be widened as legislators prepare to amend laws

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 January, 2014, 4:14am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 January, 2014, 12:56pm

Men and women who have undergone a full sex-change operation will soon be able to wed according to their new gender if proposed amendments to the city's marriage laws go according to plan.

In its clearest signal yet on what action the government will take following last July's landmark ruling on marriage for a male-to-female transgender person known only as W, the Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok extended the Court of Final Appeal ruling by widening the order to include post-operative female-to-male people.

He also re-emphasised the need for caution in introducing a gender recognition ordinance which would pave the way for a much wider raft of legal protection for transgender people.

The changes to the marriage and matrimonial causes ordinances will include "the concrete requirements of sex reassignment surgery and also include a woman becoming a man", Lai told the Legislative Council's security panel yesterday.

The transgender person must show medical papers proving their original genitals were removed and they have undergone construction of new genitals that match their reassigned sex.

During a 40-minute debate, Lai said the changes should be introduced in the first quarter of this year. He also detailed plans for a "high-level interdepartmental working group" to discuss gender recognition, to be convened by Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung. Legal professionals and other stakeholders will be invited and the public will be consulted.

On gender recognition, Lai cited the example of Britain, which also formed a working group and took six years before introducing an act in 2004.

But legislators were split on the extent to which the ruling should influence new laws. Some called for greater recognition of transgender people who chose not to undergo a full physical sex change. "This is the lowest threshold you are going for," said Raymond Chan Chi-chuen of People Power. But Priscilla Leung Mei-fun welcomed the approach that stayed within the "narrow parameters of the judgment".

Last July, the court gave the administration a 12-month grace period to adopt its ruling which overturned a decision preventing W from marrying her boyfriend.