LGBTQ Rights Advance in Hong Kong: Recent Court Decision Marked Significant Progress, Yet Further Protections Are Needed

Recent court decisions have served as major milestones concerning the rights of the city’s LGBTQ+ community.

Earlier this month, Hong Kong’s top court ruled to put forward a framework for recognising same-sex partnerships within two years’ time.

Last week, a Hong Kong court allowed both women of a couple to be involved in the child-bearing process in the medical procedure of reciprocal in vitro fertilisation (RIVF).

Patrick*, 26, who has been growing up in Hong Kong facing discrimination because of his sexual orientation thinks: “These cases can motivate more of the [LGBTQ+] community to stand up for themselves.”

While his partner, Dennis*, believes “more should be done by the authorities in order to protect their rights.”

Patrick* and his partner, Dennis*, who have been growing up facing discrimination because of their sexual orientation, find hopes in recent court decisions. Photo credit: Charlotte Kwan

Regarding the same-sex marriage case, John Andrew Evangelista, a queer scholar who has done research on queer sociology and LGBTQ+ social movements, expressed, “[It] is important since it frames same-sex marriage within an existing legal framework that activists and government could use as basis to finally institutionalise the recognition of same-sex couples.”

The root cause is yet to be solved

Despite several victories of the LGBTQ+ community over the authorities on legal challenges, Patrick* found it unfair that they are deprived of rights that an ordinary citizen should have. 

“I am born as an ordinary person, and so is my sexual orientation. But the legal framework doesn’t really cover the rights I should have as an ordinary person, instead, contradictingly, I have to fight for my rights that I am supposed to have since the day I was born,” said Patrick*.

“There are more and more homosexual couples appealing and speaking for themselves in recent years, but the authorities seem to apply the old and non-comprehensive legal framework when it comes to LGBTQ+ matters,” he added. 

Evangelista emphasised: “If they [queer couples] are not recognised under law, those contributions [the couples have made to the city] also remain unrecognised. Such [a] condition demonstrates a form of inequality with queer couples contributing responsibly to their communities but are not getting the same rights that other couples or families get.”

Meanwhile, Dennis*, a twenty-year-old university student, believed Hong Kong can follow suit by looking at Taiwan and the West’s authority’s over same-sex marriage. 

Approaches in other territories

In fact, many Asian countries have not legalised same-sex marriage but a number of them have started to make moves. 

On May 24 2019, Taiwan stood out from its neighbours by becoming the only Asian sovereignty that legalises same-sex marriage. Later in 2023, the country also abolished the restriction on the same-sex marriage of the locals and the foreigners, however, it remains restricted for people from the mainland China, where couples have to have register for their marriage in mainland China before they do that in Taiwan.

While in August 2022, the Singaporean government took the initiative to decriminalise gay sex, depsite leaving the framework on same-sex marriage unchanged. However, it is seen to be a step forward in creating opportunities for same-sex marriage legalisation. 

Cuba and Switzerland have also passed the same-sex marriage law in 2022, according to vote results. 

Dennis* said: “When [LGBTQ+] issues have been discussed for so many years, but they [the government] don’t take the initiative to revise the laws concerning our community, it makes me feel like they intentionally ignore our thoughts.” 

According to a survey conducted by the University of Hong Kong, along with the Chinese University of Hong Kong and UNC School of Law in 2023 on the same-sex marriage support, 60% of Hong Kong residents polled are in support of same-sex marriages. 

“If the government does not make moves on framing an inclusive legal framework for our community, in the long term, there’s a possibility that the public will turn to believe we are doing something weird and nurture the discrimination, which is what I hope will not happen the most,” Dennis* added. 

“It took so many years for the city to recognise us, to know that we are actually not weirdos, I hope in the future we can be taken into considerations when it comes to law amendments,” Patrick* said.

“Indeed the recent cases have been big achievements of the legal challenge journey, we still have a long way to go for us to earn ourselves a inclusive city,” Dennis* emphasised.

*Full name withheld at interviewee’s request

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