Hong Kong’s top court has urged the government to create an alternative framework for same-sex relationships to be legally recognized.
The final appellate court’s ruling: The Court of Final Appeal’s ruling on Tuesday comes in response to a lawsuit by activist Jimmy Sham seeking legal recognition of his 2013 same-sex marriage in New York, which had been denied twice by Hong Kong’s lower courts. Sham is also one of the activists facing legal action under Hong Kong’s national security law imposed by the Chinese government in 2020.
While the high court did not grant full marriage equality, it mandated that the government provide legitimacy and recognition to same-sex civil unions within two years. The ruling reportedly marks the first direct address of the issue by the court. The judges said that same-sex couples need to “have a sense of legitimacy which dispels any sense of them belonging to an inferior class of person whose committed and stable relationships are undeserving of recognition,” according to Reuters.
Falling short: Esther Leung, campaign manager of the Hong Kong Marriage Equality group, said that while the ruling was a “significant victory” and a “major step forward,” it still “falls short of what is really at stake in this case: full inclusion in marriage.”
Suen Yiu-tung, an associate professor of gender studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, also noted that “the content of the alternative framework, or what the core rights are, remain unclear,” according to Hong Kong Free Press. Suen cited a study by the Equal Opportunities Commission revealing how many same-sex couples face various discrimination in their daily lives.
Hong Kong’s current state: Although same-sex sexual activity was legalized in 1991, Hong Kong does not grant same-sex unions and marriages and currently has no laws to protect the LGBTQ+ community from discrimination. Hong Kong’s political landscape has shifted significantly due to Beijing’s national security law and electoral system changes. In mainland China, LGBTQ+ activists have faced increasing crackdowns under President Xi Jinping‘s rule.