Hong Kong’s top court has given the green light to two legal challenges of the country’s ban on same-sex marriage, in a first for Hong Kong.
Two gay men, an 31-year-old activist and a 21-year-old student, are separately arguing that the ban on same-sex marriage violates their right to equality under the Basic Law, the city’s mini-Constitution.
They are asking the government to amend the marriage law, which currently is between a man and a woman, to recognise unions of two people, the South China Morning Post reported.
The Hong Kong High Court gave permission for the cases to proceed during a preliminary hearing last week but the court will hear a separate case regarding a civil union scheme first, the Post reported.
Homosexuality was decriminalised in Hong Kong in 1991 but same-sex marriage is not legal in the country. This is the first legal challenge seeking to legalise marriage equality, after several lawsuits in recent years over specific civil rights of same-sex couples.
LGBTIQ campaigners say gay and transgender people face discrimination in Hong Kong and often face pressure from family to marry and have children.
Same-sex couples cannot apply for public housing or enjoy their partner’s pension benefits, according to Amnesty International.
Recent court cases on same-sex marriage
Same-sex marriage is not legal anywhere in Asia, but the Hong Kong legal challenges are among numerous other high-profile court cases on same-sex marriages to come before courts in recent years.
Taiwan was widely expected to become the first in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage after a landmark court ruling in 2017.
But the reform’s progress was delayed in November after the country voted in a referendum to preserve the current definition of marriage as between a man and a woman, leading to uncertainty about how the government will respond to the binding court ruling.
In the meantime, Thailand could become the first Asian country to give legal recognition to same-sex couples through legislation to allow civil partnerships.
(Photo by Hong Kong Pride Parade/Facebook)