Hong Kong Court Grants Equal Housing Rights to Gay Couples

Hong Kong Court Upholds Rights of Same-Sex Married Couples in Public Housing Ruling

A file photo of a participant holding a rainbow umbrella at an LGBT Pride Parade in Hong Kong. | Photo Credit: Reuters

Landmark Ruling in Hong Kong

A Hong Kong court has dismissed a government bid to deny same-sex married couples the right to rent and own public housing, deeming such actions as “discriminatory in nature” and a violation of their rights. The ruling, delivered by the Hong Kong Court of Appeal, marks a significant legal breakthrough for gay rights advocates in the global financial hub.

Upholding Equality

The government had challenged two previous High Court rulings that deemed it “unconstitutional and unlawful” for the city’s housing authority to exclude same-sex couples who were married abroad from receiving public housing. The appeal encompassed two separate cases. In one instance, the authority rejected a permanent resident’s application to rent a public flat with his husband because their marriage in Canada was not recognized in Hong Kong. The other case involved a same-sex couple who were denied joint-ownership of a government-subsidized flat by the authority due to their marriage in Britain not being recognized in Hong Kong.

The Court of Appeal, consisting of Justices Jeremy Poon, Aarif Barma, and Thomas Au, concluded in a written judgment that the authority’s treatment of gay married couples was “discriminatory in nature” and called for equal treatment. They stated that the differential treatment in these cases signified a more severe form of indirect discrimination, as the criterion for eligibility was one that same-sex couples could never meet.

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Celebrating Victory and Progress

Henry Li, one of the individuals involved in the second case, welcomed the ruling in a Facebook post. Li expressed gratitude for the court’s decision, which recognized the importance of treating all couples equally. Rights group Hong Kong Marriage Equality also celebrated the decision, emphasizing that discrimination based on sexual orientation has no place in public policy decisions.

Ongoing Struggles and Hope for Reform

While Hong Kong’s top court had previously ruled against same-sex marriage in September, it acknowledged the necessity for same-sex couples to have access to an alternative legal framework to fulfill their basic social requirements. The government was given a two-year period to develop this framework.

A Hong Kong court also ruled in favor of a married lesbian couple in September, granting them both parental status for their child born via reciprocal IVF. This ruling, along with the recent decision to uphold the rights of same-sex married couples in public housing, has garnered attention from activists across Asia who hope that these outcomes will have a positive influence on campaigns for reform in their respective jurisdictions.

Looking Ahead

The rulings and progress made in Hong Kong’s courts are closely watched by activists in other parts of Asia. They hope that such developments will pave the way for greater equality and LGBTQ+ rights in their own countries. The fight for equal treatment and the eradication of discrimination based on sexual orientation continues, building on the victories achieved within a changing global landscape.

Reporting by Jessie Pang; Editing by James Pomfret, Robert Birsel

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