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Hong Kong court urges new framework for same-sex unions

September 5, 2023

A landmark case on LGBTQ rights saw Hong Kong's top court rejecting a bid for full marriage equality of same-sex couples. However, the judges also said the government needed to create a legal framework for the issue.

LGBTQ supporters hold up a rainbow flag during a 2019 rally in Hong Kong
Around 60% Hong Kong residents now support same-sex marriage (file photo)Image: Anthony Kwan/Getty Images

Pro-democracy activist Jimmy Sham scored a partial victory before Hong Kong's top court on Tuesday, with the judges acknowledging the need for a framework to legally recognize same-sex partnerships formed abroad.

Sham had sought recognition for his marriage to his husband, whom he married in New York 10 years ago. The jailed activist gained prominence during anti-government protests in 2019 and remains in custody due to charges under a Beijing-imposed national security law.

In the Tuesday ruling, the judges dismissed his appeal for his marriage to be recognized. However, they also gave the government two years to create the needed framework.

"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 wrote.

This was the first time the top court directly addressed the issue of same-sex marriage.

Support for same-sex marriage grows

Despite facing challenges, Hong Kong has seen increasing public support for same-sex marriage, and the ruling underscores the ongoing fight for broader LGBTQ rights in the region.

Hong Kong currently acknowledges same-sex marriage for limited purposes like taxation and visas.

Despite challenges in mainland China, support for same-sex marriage in semi-autonomous Hong Kong has grown, with 60% in favor this year, up from 38% a decade ago, according to a poll.

Italy: Same-sex parents and their children in legal limbo

ss/dj (AP, AFP, Reuters)