A gay man is suing the government of Hong Kong for rejecting him as his late husband’s surviving spouse, thereby preventing him from carrying out his spouse’s final wishes.
Edgar Ng Hon-lam and Henry Li Yik-ho tied the knot in London in 2017, but laws established by the government of Hong Kong do not recognize same-sex marriages.
Ng suffered from depression for years. Before taking his own life last December, Ng brought forward two judicial proceedings that sought equal rights for non-heterosexual couples.
One case involved a Housing Authority rule that prevented Ng from living with Li in Hong Kong, while the other involved inheritance laws.
In September 2020, the High Court ruled in favor of Ng, according to RTHK. Same-sex couples who marry abroad are now allowed to inherit each other’s estates despite the absence of a will.
Before committing suicide, Ng told Li to scatter his ashes at sea.
However, Li cannot fulfill his late husband’s wishes. Because the government of Hong Kong does not recognize Li as his husband’s next-of-kin, he cannot make funeral arrangements.
A public forensic pathologist also told Li that he cannot be designated as the “official identifier” of Ng’s body. Instead, Li needs to seek authorization from Ng’s mother, who allegedly wants nothing to do with him.
“Edgar’s mother is now demanding that I be excluded from the scattering of Edgar’s ashes, and that I move out from our matrimonial home,” Li told the Hong Kong Free Press on Monday.
Ng’s mother initially authorized Li to be the identifier and carry out after-death arrangements. However, their relationship has since deteriorated.
Li’s family was uninvited to the funeral mass. Li was also asked to return all of Ng’s possessions.
In his judicial review filing, Li argued that the term “spouse” — under legal provisions on the disposal of the dead — should apply to same-sex couples who legally married abroad.
“Mourning the loss of a spouse is undoubtedly one of the most difficult times in one’s life. To add insult to injury, same-sex widows and widowers are not even entitled to take care of their loved ones’ after-death arrangements in accordance with the prevailing laws of Hong Kong,” Li’s lawyers said in a statement, according to the South China Morning Post.
They added, “Through this judicial review, the applicant hopes that all same-sex couples will no longer be subjected to the kind of discrimination that he is now facing and that everyone may grieve the loss of their loved ones with dignity and equal treatment, regardless of sexual orientation.”
Feature Images via Henry Li