Love hotels discriminate against same-sex couples

Many love hotels will not rent rooms to same-sex couples, an investigation has revealed - prompting calls from gay and lesbian activists for a law against discrimination on grounds of sexuality.

Nine Sunday Morning Post reporters posing as couples - both heterosexual and homosexual - last week visited love hotels in Kowloon Tong. The pairs asked to hire rooms at seven establishments in Kent Road and Cumberland Road.

Four of the hotels would not rent rooms to reporters posing as same-sex couples. The hotels' managers said their companies had a policy of turning away same-sex couples. Heterosexual couples, naturally, did not have any trouble getting rooms.

Reggie Ho, honorary chairman of Horizons, a gay and lesbian group, accused the love hotel operators of depriving homosexual couples of their rights. He said same-sex couples had been denied entry to love hotels for years. But he argued that Hong Kong's congested living environment meant that couples needed such services.

'Same-sex couples need to go to love hotels to spend time with each other, especially if they live with their families,' Mr Ho said. 'Otherwise, it is impossible for them unless one lives alone. This is only a kind of service and the love hotels have to make money anyway. Why are homosexuals being discriminated against?'

Mr Ho said operators banned same-sex couples because they were afraid of offending other couples. 'They are only guessing what their clients think. What these operators do is simply reinforcing discrimination,' he said.

Roddy Shaw Kwok-wah, chairman of Civil Rights for Sexual Diversities, said the love hotels were clearly practising discrimination based on sex and sexual orientation.

'This is serious and blatant discrimination,' Mr Shaw said. If there was a law against discriminating on the grounds of sexual orientation, excluding same-sex couples would be illegal, he said.

In a judgment in May in the case of Joseph Cho Man-kit against the Broadcasting Authority - in which Mr Cho sought a judicial review of the authority's decision that an RTHK programme, Hong Kong Connection - Gay Lovers, was 'partial and biased towards homosexuality' and was 'unsuitable for broadcast within the family viewing hours' - Mr Justice Michael Hartmann wrote that sex discrimination also covered sexual orientation.

'It is now recognised in our law that the prohibition against discrimination on the basis of sex refers not only to gender but also to sexual orientation,' the judgment said.

However, lawyer Michael Vidler said the judicial review was in relation to a government body, but if the situation had anything to do with a private individual, nothing could be done because of the lack of a law against discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation.

'A private citizen can refuse entry to gays if they want to because at the moment there is no legislation,' Mr Vidler said.

'The government claims that there's no sexual-orientation discrimination in Hong kong but the government is just turning a blind eye. There's a reason why we need a sexual-orientation discrimination ordinance to deal with private individuals [and entities] such as hotels, bars and restaurants.'