Hong Kong’s top court passes a rule on Thursday that a gay civil servant and his husband will be entitled to spousal benefits and a joint tax return. Hence, becoming the latest example of an Asian government expanding rights for same-sex couples.
Not so long ago, Taiwan made history by becoming the first country to legalize same-sex marriage. It seems to be that Hong Kong has decided to follow its steps.
In a landmark judgment passed on Thursday, June 6, Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal ruled that same-sex couples can’t be denied spousal employment benefits by the government.
Angus Leung, a local immigration officer, in 2014, legally decided to marry his husband Scott Adams in New Zealand. However, in Hong Kong, Mr. Adams will not be able to access the benefits civil servants’ spouses are entitled to. The gay couple later will resort to suing the government, starting a four-year-long lawsuit.
Ruling in favor of Angus Leung
Hong Kong’s top court ruled in favor of gay civil servant Angus Leung. This ruling, thus, unanimously overturns an earlier judgment that said such a practice was unlawful. Hence, making it a major score for the LGBTQ community in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.
In a ruling released on Thursday, the Court of Final Appeal ruled that it was discriminatory to bar Mr. Adams from his benefits. It further added that the ruling did not weaken the institution of marriage in Hong Kong.
“How is it said that allowing Mr. Adams medical and dental benefits weakens the institution of marriage in Hong Kong? Similarly, how does permitting the appellant to elect for joint assessment of his income tax liability under [tax law] impinge on the institution of marriage in Hong Kong?” the judges wrote.
“It cannot logically be argued that any person is encouraged to enter into an opposite-sex marriage in Hong Kong because a same-sex spouse is denied those benefits or to joint assessment to taxation.”
A second win for the GAY Community
While same-sex marriage is yet illegal in Hong Kong, this ruling is new hope for the community.
Furthermore, this is the second time a Hong Kong court has offered some form of recognition to same-sex marriages.
Last year, the same court, the Court of Final Appeal, did rule in favor of another such gay couple. However, it involved an expatriate woman who did win the right to live and work in Hong Kong with her wife.
Both historic rulings do presumably make it more difficult for the government if they do not recognize same-sex marriages that are legalized overseas.