If the acceptance of gay rights is a way to judge a society’s openness and diversity, Hong Kong can hardly claim to be Asia’s world city. Just as Taiwan has become the first in the continent to legalise same sex-marriage, a local advertisement featuring two men holding hands was deemed too offensive for display at the city’s airport and railway stations . The two bodies involved made a U-turn only after the ban was reported by the Post and caused a backlash in LGBT community. The row shows that recognition of the rights of sexual minorities is still a work in progress. LGBT activists call for city to follow Taiwan on same-sex marriage It is difficult to see how two men in suits and holding hands as they walk along a beach can be seen as offensive. But this is apparently the reason why the Cathay Pacific ad was rejected by the MTR’s publicity agency, whose guidelines prohibit content seen as immoral or offending accepted standards of public decency, or social and cultural standards. Equally puzzling was the initial response of the Airport Authority, which said it has to take into account the fact that “the airport receives a large number of passengers of all ages with different cultural backgrounds from all over the world”. While the ad may not be well received by everyone, a ban based on the most conservative standards would have undermined our image. Indeed, the government has long been running television publicity promoting acceptance for diversity and equality. Taiwan lawmakers vote to legalise same-sex marriage The Equal Opportunities Commission should have been more vocal in defending the rights of sexual minorities. The watchdog first declined to comment, saying the ad falls outside the current discrimination laws and that it did not know the reasons for the ban. It later welcomed the change. Earlier, the new commissioner also disappointed the LGBT community when asked about the legalisation of same-sex marriage in Taiwan. He opted for a step-by-step approach to first focus on anti-discrimination initiatives, saying the circumstances of the two places could not be directly compared. Although Hong Kong and Taiwan are predominantly Chinese societies, it is true that the fight for equality is totally different. The latter has gone through a referendum and constitutional challenges in court before achieving the goal. Regrettably, we still shy away from broaching LGBT issues openly. The previous government came under fire for reneging on its promise of a public consultation on anti-discrimination legislation. The current administration is no more committed in this respect. There is also a perception that the watchdog is no longer as forthcoming as it used to be. The issues cannot be dodged indefinitely. While we lost out in being the first in Asia to recognise same-sex relationships, we do not want to lag behind in terms of improving institutional protection for sexual minorities. The earlier we act, the better.