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Hong Kong Equal Opportunities boss says civil unions possible

Hong Kong Equal Opportunities Commission chair York Chow says civil unions for gay and lesbian couples could be a ‘feasible' alternative for same-sex marriage
Hong Kong
Photo by Chen Si Yuan

The head of Hong Kong’s leading human rights body has sad that Hong Kong should consider civil unions for same-sex couples as an achievable alternative to letting them marry because of conservative views in the Chinese territory.

Equal Opportunities Commission chair Dr York Chow Yat-ngok told the South China Morning Post that while governments elsewhere consider the issue of equal treatment under the law to be a ‘matter of human rights,’ conservative views in Hong Kong will make it difficult to have full equality in marriage.

‘To use “marriage” for same-sex couples would be rather difficult to accept for Hongkongers, especially the conservative ones,’ Chow told the newspaper.

‘Overseas governments first thought of dropping the term “marriage” and replacing it with “civil union.” Legally, though, the protection is identical. I think this is feasible.

‘I, and the commission, are of the view that the LGBT community should be provided with the same opportunities [as heterosexuals] wherever possible.’

Chow hopes an upcoming amendment to allow post-operative transgender people to be legally recognized as their preferred gender will spark debate around the issue.

The amendment came about when a transgender woman who was seeking to marry a man took the issue to the Hong Kong High Court which gave the Security Bureau a year to decide whether the law needed to be amended to reflect its ruling that the legal definition of woman should include a post-operative male-to-female transsexual.

‘If a person gets married and then changes his or her gender, this becomes a same-sex marriage,’ Chow said.

‘Whether this should be legally enforceable remains contentious. And an ensuing question is should same-sex marriage be allowed as well?’

The Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong says it will oppose civil unions, with a spokesman saying that ‘to compare homosexuals' rights with heterosexuals' rights is like comparing apple and orange.’

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