Hong Kong lawmaker fights for same-sex partners to get right to claim ashes of loved ones
Labour Party legislator wants legal definition broadened as the city does not recognise gay unions made overseas
Lawmakers will discuss and vote on a proposal to make same-sex partners eligible to claim the ashes of their loved ones from private columbariums.
Cyd Ho Sau-lan of the Labour Party proposed that the definition of a relative of a dead person in a government bill be broadened to include partners from same-sex marriages registered abroad.
The legal framework does not currently consider people in same-sex marriages, civil partnerships and unions as eligible claimants to handle ash disposal procedures as Hong Kong does not recognise the legal status of same-sex marriages from overseas.
Billy Leung, vice-chairman of the Pink Alliance, a leading pro-gay rights group, said: “It’s important that partners of same-sex couples should have a final say and be involved in the arrangements of picking up the ashes and arranging funerals. It’s important to be recognised as part of the family.”
Leung hoped that legislators would vote to pass the amendment when the private columbaria bill is tabled for discussion on Wednesday during the Legislative Council’s weekly meeting.
“For [same-sex partners] to not be included in the process would be like adding salt to the wound. It’ll be terrible if we do not rectify that,” Leung said.
However, the Food and Health Bureau, which regulates the operation and licensing of non-government columbariums, said the additional public expenditure would be too high if the amendment was passed.
“We would have to incur public expenditure to seek legal advice to conduct research and advice on foreign laws on the subject,” the bureau said in a statement, citing difficulty with jurisdictions from nearly 200 different countries around the world.
The bureau estimated it would cost at least HK$1.6 million in consulting a law firm for research, and an additional HK$527,500 every three years.
Amendments to the bill is currently on Legco’s agenda for a second reading. A government bill requires three readings before it is enacted.