Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC)

Greater protection needed for Hong Kong’s sexual minorities, equality watchdog says

Equal Opportunities Commission head thinks more discussion needed after judge ruled gay civil servants should enjoy same benefits as heterosexual colleagues

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 April, 2017, 4:51pm
UPDATED : Monday, 01 May, 2017, 7:10pm

Hong Kong needs more protection for the city’s sexual minorities and discussion on same-sex marriage, according to the equality watchdog.

Equal Opportunities Commission chairman Professor Alfred Chan Cheung-ming was commenting on Saturday one dayafter the High Court ruled that gay civil servants should enjoy the same benefits as their heterosexual colleagues.

Chan said the court judgment highlighted the fact that there was insufficient protection for sexual minorities, although it did not necessarily mean recognition for same-sex marriage.

“The court ruling told us clearly that [the road to same-sex] marriage in Hong Kong is just a start. We agree with it and that discussion on [legalising same-sex] marriage is unavoidable,” Chan said, adding the commission hoped the government would handle the rights of sexual minorities seriously.

“More discussion on the city’s marriage system is needed. There is support and opposition from difference concern groups. The discussion should continue.”

Senior immigration officer Leung Chun-kwong, who married his partner, Scott Adams, in New Zealand in 2014, launched the challenge in 2015 against the secretary for the civil service and the commissioner of inland revenue, who were reluctant to recognise their marriage.

The Court of First Instance on Friday ruled against the Civil Service Bureau in an unprecedented decision that may have an immediate bearing on other gay civil servants who married overseas. But it did not ruleagainst the Inland Revenue Department.

The fight to lift the barrier to same-sex equality in Hong Kong

In his 44-page judgment, Mr Justice Anderson Chow Ka-ming called the bureau’s policy “indirect discrimination” and rejected its assertion that the secretary had a justifiable aim “to act in line with the prevailing marriage law of Hong Kong” and not to “undermine the integrity of the institution of marriage ... hence safeguarding public order”.

Chow wrote that the granting of benefits to same-sex marriage partners would not constitute indirect legalisation of same-sex marriage. He added that the ruling on benefits would take effect on September 1.

The Civil Service Bureau said it would examine the judgment in detail with the Justice Department to determine its next step.