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In a semi-victory for Hong Kong’s LGBTQ+ community, the city’s top court ruled on Tuesday that Hong Kong’s government has to create a framework to legally recognize same-sex unions. This ruling isn’t quite the same as fully recognizing same-sex marriage, but it is progress toward that goal. After all, in 2019, a Hong Kong court ruled against granting same-sex unions. Things look like they’re changing.
For the past five years, the case’s plaintiff, activist Jimmy Sham, has been fighting for the recognition of his same-sex marriage that is registered in another country. In its final ruling, the court ruled against Hong Kong fully recognizing same-sex marriage. But, it did say that the government is violating the Hong Kong Bill of Rights by not forming an alternative system for legally acknowledging same-sex relationships, like registered civil partnerships or unions.
“The absence of legal recognition of their relationship is apt to disrupt and demean their private lives together in ways that constitute arbitrary interference,” Justice Patrick Keane of Hong Kong’s Final Court of Appeal wrote as part of the decision.
According to the court’s decision, the government has two years to establish this same-sex union framework. The government’s approach could end up either opening the door more in the future for same-sex marriage or it could make that door more difficult to open. We don’t really have any idea what this framework will end up looking like just yet.
“Today can be the start of a more equal society in Hong Kong, but there is still a long road ahead,” said Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East, Southeast Asia and the Pacific, Piya Muqit. “It is now crucial that the government does not delay in implementing this ruling as a first step towards ensuring full equality for LGBTI people. This order to adopt a framework for recognition is now added to the Hong Kong government’s to-do list of legislating laws on gender recognition and against discrimination based on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status, both of which have yielded minimal progress after public consultations in the past decade.”