Landmark decision: Hong Kong court rules that transsexual woman can marry

After a five year battle, 'W' has won right to marry her boyfriend, lawyer calls judgment a 'resounding victory'

Landmark decision: Hong Kong court rules that transsexual woman can marry
13 May 2013

In a landmark decision, the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal has ruled that a transsexual woman can marry her boyfriend.

A Hong-Kong-born transsexual woman in her mid-30s, known only as ‘W’ in court, has won a five year battle to win the right to marry the man she loves.

Michael Vidler, a partner of the legal firm representing the case, called the judgment a ‘resounding victory’ and said he was ‘relieved’ and ‘happy’ with the judgement.

Out of the five judges on the bench, four accepted the team’s arguments.

‘The court took both of our arguments,’ Vidler told Gay Star News. ‘That marriage ordinance should be read to include transgender women and also our human rights point was taken, in that it was a breach of her constitutional rights [to marry]. We won on both grounds, which was nice.’

The decision gives hope that other transgender people, both male-to-female and female-to-male, will be able to marry people of the opposite gender. Although it is only likely to affect post-operative transsexuals.

It is likely that, following the judges’ recommendations, the government will amend the marriage law to clarify the position for transsexuals.

The team’s argument, presented by Lord Pannick QC in the court of appeal last month, was that as the Hong Kong government recognizes W as a woman on her ID card they should accept she is a woman for marriage law as well.

‘For instance, if she was going to be going to prison she would be recognized as a woman,’ said Vidler, arguing that the government recognizes her as a woman for certain purposes so they should for this as well.

Vidler & Co Solicitors specialize in civil rights cases in Hong Kong and have fought a number of LGBT rights cases.

Vidler is currently looking for a gay couple to fight the Hong Kong immigration department’s discrimination towards them when issuing dependent visas.

Civil partners or same-sex marriages from abroad do not get the same rights to a dependent visa as heterosexual couples. ‘It’s a markedly discriminatory practice,’ said Vidler.  

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