HUMAN RIGHTS

Transgender marriage law vetoed by Legco

Voting down of revisions to allow transgender marriage in line with court ruling sees security minister accused of failing to lobby for them

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 October, 2014, 4:48am
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 October, 2014, 9:25am

The security minister came under fire from lawmakers yesterday for failing to lobby enough support before trying to push through law revisions in favour of transgender marriage.

Amendments to the marriage laws that were merely straightforward changes meant to comply with a top-court ruling last year were voted down by equal numbers of pro-establishment and pan-democratic legislators.

The government's Marriage (Amendment) Bill 2014 seeks to revise the Marriage Ordinance after the Court of Final Appeal ruled in July last year that a transgender woman, W, could marry her boyfriend as it was unconstitutional to ban her from doing so.

Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok told lawmakers the bill was only seeking to synchronise the ordinance with the ruling. "It does not add any extra requirement apart from the Court of Final Appeal's judgment."

However, pan-democrats objected to the bill's requirement that a person must undergo full gender reassignment surgery to be considered transgender. W had gone through the operation before, Labour Party lawmaker Cyd Ho Sau-lan said on the sidelines of the Legislative Council meeting, but turning it into part of the law was another matter.

Since July, transgender people have been allowed to register to marry legally, after the expiry of a 12-month buffer the court granted for the government to consider amending the law. Legco has yet to approve the revisions, though, because of filibustering before its summer recess.

The bill was finally voted on yesterday, whereupon 20 lawmakers each from the pan-democratic and pro-establishment camps shot it down. Only 11 Beijing loyalists supported it. Ho urged the government to hold a thorough public consultation on gender recognition before writing anything into the city's law.

"We have to deal with the entire legal identity of transgender people, such as whether they can adopt children," she said.

Ip Kwok-him, of the pro-establishment Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said: "Hong Kong is a traditional society and the marriage concept should not be extended boundlessly [before the public was fully consulted]."

Lai said Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung was heading a taskforce to study gender recognition issues. "It will publish a consultation document in about two years," he promised.

Two advocates of sexual minorities' rights said if the bill was passed, it would be hard to make changes. Brian Leung Siu-fai, of Big Love Alliance, said: "The clause [about sex reassignment] is seen as inhuman under UN standards." Yeo Wai-wai, of the Women's Coalition, noted transgender people could already get married as the government had to execute the court ruling.