Mexico City /
The highest court of Hong Kong was pronounced on Tuesday against of marriage between persons of same sexbut urged the government to establish alternative frameworks to legally recognize these relationships, in a partial victory for the LGTBQ community.
During the last decade, LGBTQ activists in this former British colony they had made small legal strides to overthrow discriminatory government policies in a matter of visas, taxes or housing.
But the case presented by the pro-democracy activist imprisoned Jimmy Sham it was the first on marriage equality to reach the Final Court of Appeals.
Its five judges ruled that the government “fails to fulfill its obligation (…) to establish an alternative framework for the legal recognition of same-sex relationships (such as a registry of civil relations or civil unions).”
The judges awarded “a period of two years” to the municipal authorities to comply with the ruling and create a legal framework to recognize these relationships.
However, the court “unanimously dismissed” Sham’s appeal to recognize same-sex marriage, both in Hong Kong and those registered abroad.
Unlike what happened in mainland chinawhere LGBTQ activism faces numerous political challenges, support grows in Hong Kong of the population for same-sex marriage.
A survey this year found that 60 percent of Hong Kongers support marriage equality, against only 38 percent a decade ago.
Since its return to China in 1997, the city has enjoyed a status semi-autonomous that grants you more freedoms and autonomy of decision than in the continental territory.
Sham began his legal battle in 2018. He was unable to attend the publication of the judgment as he is currently incarcerated awaiting trial for alleged national security crimes unrelated to his LGBTQ activism.
The 36-year-old man argued that the prohibition of marriage equality and the absence of an alternative scheme such as civil unions violate their Equality right.
But in justice has denied him twice the recognition of marriage with your same-sex partner, registered almost a decade ago in New York.
The judges argued on Tuesday that the “constitutional freedom of marriage (…) is limited to opposite-sex marriage and does not extend to same-sex marriage”.
However, they admit the “necessity” of legally recognize these unions for situations such as making medical decisions if the couple is sick or the division of assets at the end of a relationship.
“Partial but very important victory”
The gender studies scholar Suen Yiu-tung said that the error is “a partial but very important victory” for Hong Kong, which did not decriminalize sexual relations between men until 1991.
The human rights lawyer Wong Hiu-chong pointed out that it was an “important step towards the protection of LGBT rights”, but regretted that thethe term of two years given to the government was “a bit long”.
“We hope that the administration will stick to this very generous deadline and not procrastinate,” he added.
In Asia, yesOnly Nepal and Taiwan recognize marriage between people of the same sex. South Korean legislators recently introduced a law to recognize civil unions.
Although international firms in Hong Kong have supported LGTBQ campaignsthe city authorities, backed by China, have shown little interest in passing laws to promote equality in this field.
In addition, the defense of human rights has partially gone underground since the national security law imposed in 2020 by Beijing, after the violent pro-democracy protests that occurred a year earlier in the city.
A radio program promoting the LGBTQ rights on the Hong Kong public broadcaster was canceled in July after 17 years on the air.