A gay civil servant in Hong Kong has won spousal benefits for his husband after a court rejected the government’s reasoning that the benefits should only be given to heterosexual married couples in order to protect “the integrity of the institution of marriage.”
The case was brought forward by Leung Chun-kwong (Angus Leung), a senior immigration officer in Hong Kong. In 2014, Leung married his longtime partner Scott Adams at a ceremony in New Zealand. Afterward, he tried to get his husband the same spousal benefits, including healthcare, that are extended to all of his heterosexual coworkers; however, his request was denied by his employer, the Civil Service Bureau, which argued that Hong Kong does not recognize same-sex marriages.
“At its heart, this matter concerns protection for the dignity of a historically oppressed class in our society – homosexual persons, a substantial portion of our society. Allowing discriminatory treatment against such a minority undermines the law,” Leung wrote in a 100-page court document, accusing the bureau of unconstitutionally discriminating against his sexual orientation.
On Friday, a High Court judge said that he couldn’t see how granting benefits to homosexual couples would undermine “the integrity of the institution of marriage,” instead charging the bureau with “indirect discrimination,” according to the South China Morning Post.
The decision could become a landmark ruling for gay couples in Hong Kong, particularly those who have been married overseas. Solicitor Mark Daly, whose firm handled the case, called the judgment a “small step forward” and a “rare judicial recognition” of LGBT rights in Hong Kong.
Meanwhile, Raymond Chan, Hong Kong’s first and only openly gay legislator, wants to use the ruling to make an even bigger step forward, calling on the government to study the possibility of introducing civil unions.
“I urge the government to consider [introducing] a civil union system which covers heterosexual and homosexual relationships. No department or bureau [is] willing to be in charge of this issue. I think because of the judgement of the High Court, our government at least should start the study and a consultation”, Chan said.
[Image via hk.01.com / Oriental Daily]
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