Gay rights groups welcome equality ruling

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 September, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 September, 2006, 12:00am

Rights advocates yesterday hailed as a significant victory the Court of Appeal's affirmation of the right to equality under criminal law for gays and lesbians, but said many battles remained to be fought.

Roddy Shaw Kwok-wah of Civil Rights for Sexual Diversities said it was important the judgment came from a higher court, which sent a strong message to the government by citing international jurisprudence on the issue.

'It is a very strong message to the community that the courts for the second time upheld the right to equal protection for the LGBT [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender] community in Hong Kong,' Mr Shaw said from Bangkok.

'From a legal point of view, it is also very important as [it is] the second case in Hong Kong since the handover where primary legislation has been struck down as unconstitutional.'

It is understood that the only other case in which the Basic Law was used to strike down a piece of legislation was that brought by 'Long Hair' Leung Kwok-hung on phone tapping against Section 33 of the Telecommunications Ordinance.

'This is a landmark case which reaffirmed that the Basic Law and the Bill of Rights Ordinance protect gays and lesbians, and inequality in other policy areas will definitely be subject to challenge in the future,' Mr Shaw said.

He hoped the government would not take the case to the Court of Final Appeal as it had exhausted all its arguments and had no justification for going forward.

Law Yuk-kai, director of the Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor, said other policy areas where battles were yet to be fought were in fields such as employment, education and spousal rights.

'Unless and until we have a sexual orientation discrimination ordinance properly enacted, a lot of sexual minorities in Hong Kong will still be second-class citizens and denied equal rights and protections,' Mr Law said.

The Equal Opportunities Commission said the decision showed courts would intensely scrutinise any adverse impact on minorities' rights.

'The court has affirmed that the right of equality is fundamental to all people and that protection should be accorded to minorities,' commission chairman Raymond Tang Yee-bong said.