Still not equal.
Hong Kong’s Court of Appeal overturned a ruling that required the government to grant benefits to spouses of employees in same-sex marriages. In its decision, the court ruled that it is not just a private employer but “a custodian of Hong Kong’s prevailing socio-moral values”, and as such, had a duty to protect the institution of traditional marriage.
In late 2015, Immigration Officer Angus Leung filed a judicial review against the city’s Civil Service Bureau after it refused to grant his husband spousal benefits.
Leung joined the civil service in 2003. In April 2014, he married his boyfriend of nine years in New Zealand.
Leung won the case in April 2017 at the High Court, leading to the government appealing the ruling.
Writing on the decision, Appeal Justice Jeremy Poon said that people might think the government was recognizing gay marriage via a “back door.” “By granting same-sex married couples… access to spousal benefits, which are unique to marriage, the very status of marriage would diminish significantly in the eyes of the public.”
The three presiding appeal judges also cited the city’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, as the source of constitutional backing for the protection of traditional marriage.
In a statement following the court decision to overturn the ruling, Leung said that this is “a huge step back for equality in Hong Kong. We are not asking for special treatment. We just want to live our life fairly and with dignity.”
He is now seeking legal advice on whether to take the case to the city’s top court.
In Hong Kong, homosexual sex was only decriminalized in 1991; and it was only in 2006 when the age of consent was brought into line with heterosexual sex.