On gay marriage in Hong Kong, equal rights should get priority over social prejudice

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 June, 2018, 7:18pm
UPDATED : Friday, 15 June, 2018, 10:53pm

Fear and ignorance keep prejudice alive. Notwithstanding the fact that the sky hasn’t fallen in jurisdictions where LGBT individuals enjoy equal rights, Hong Kong continues to dig in its heels when it comes to treating gay citizens with respect and dignity.

More disturbing, however, is the fact that there are politicians who peddle fear in their all-out attempt to deny equal rights to the city's sexual minorities.

Instead of engaging in a reasoned debate, they tried to politicise the appointment of two eminent jurists to the Court of Final Appeal by making unwarranted and irresponsible claims. (“Pro-Beijing lawmakers voice concerns over foreign judges' support for gay rights”, April 28)

As Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma Tao-li rightly pointed out in his address at a ceremony on June 9, “only two qualities are stated in the Basic Law for the appointment of judges: judicial and professional qualities. Their views, political or otherwise, or any other aspect, do not enter into it.”

While traditions and societal views are important considerations in the formulation of any public policy, they are not trump cards to subvert equal rights. Put plainly, minority rights should not be subject to the wishes of the majority or the promise of equality will ring hollow.

As such, the verdict of the Court of Appeal in the recent same-sex spousal benefits case is troubling. Although current Hong Kong laws do not recognise same-sex marriage, it is perplexing and logically unsound for the court to declare that Article 37 of the Basic Law favours heterosexual marriage.

The article only provides that Hong Kong residents have the right to raise a family and their freedom of marriage shall be protected. Nowhere does it say that marriage must be heterosexual.

Watch: Taiwan rules in favour of gay marriage

Furthermore, where is the evidence to suggest that granting same-sex spousal benefits or legalising same-sex marriage would diminish the institution of marriage?

Instead of clinging to Victorian morality and entrenching prejudice, the government should embrace equality and modernise our laws so that Hong Kong can truly become a shining beacon in Asia.

Jerome Yau, Happy Valley