UK consulate in Hong Kong bars same-sex weddings after government objection

British missions in China and numerous other countries can perform same-sex unions, but Hong Kong's will not go against government policy

PUBLISHED : Monday, 09 June, 2014, 3:03am
UPDATED : Monday, 09 June, 2014, 10:36am

Same-sex marriages will be allowed at British consulates in China, Russia, Azerbaijan and 20 other countries, but not in Hong Kong, according to the local consulate.

"Unfortunately, the Hong Kong government has raised an objection to the solemnisation of same-sex marriages in Hong Kong," said a spokeswoman for the British consulate.

While diplomatic missions are under British rule and not subject to Hong Kong law, it is a requirement under British law that a marriage licence only be issued if the host government does not object.

The news from the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office last week saying couples could approach consulates in some countries to be married initially drew joy from LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) couples, but it was cut short when the consulate revealed the Hong Kong government's objection.

"The Chinese [central] government and the Russian government aren't objecting, yet the Hong Kong government is still saying they don't want this," said Nigel Collett, a writer who is set to marry his Singaporean partner this August in Britain.

"They're blocking every stage of the way to same-sex marriage, thinking if they give an inch it'll come to pass in Hong Kong."

While Collett's plans are not foiled by the Hong Kong government's objection, others who have been lobbying their consulates are still upset about this development.

"We are especially outraged by this … there's a very strong homophobic group lobbying for this," said Betty Grisoni, 44, co-founder of Double Happiness, a group looking to lobby for the interests of LGBT couples.

Grisoni, a public relations expert, has been trying to marry her partner of 15 years at the French consulate ever since France legalised same-sex marriages in May 2013.

"Most of our friends are here, I've been living here for 12 years, and not been living in France for over 23 years. Why can't we get married where most of our friends are? It's just not fair," Grisoni said.

Double Happiness looks to push for the right to marry in the consulates of countries where same-sex marriages and civil unions are legal, and ultimately to lobby the Hong Kong government itself to recognise LGBT unions.

Globally, there are 16 countries that recognise same-sex marriages, all with diplomatic missions in Hong Kong, but so far the Post has only been able to confirm that the Spanish consulate performs such marriages.

A representative from the Spanish consulate said it would be possible for two Spaniards, or a Spaniard and a person from another country where same-sex marriage is legal, to be married in the consulate. But if the partner came from a country with restrictions, that would have to be looked at on a case-by-case basis.

The British consulate said it had sent a note to the Hong Kong government seeking guidance.

The government's protocol department said it could not provide an answer, while the Immigration Department and Security Bureau said it was not a matter under their purview.