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Gay Hong Kong civil servant to take spousal benefits case to top court

Gay Hong Kong civil servant to take spousal benefits case to top court

Hong Kong's Court of Final Appeal (Photo: HKCFA)

A Hong Kong judge on Monday (24 September) permitted a civil servant to take the government to the city’s top court for refusing to grant his same-sex partner spousal benefits.

Immigration officer Angus Leung, who married his husband in New Zealand five years ago, sued the government in 2015 for refusing to recognize his marital status and grant his husband benefits such as medical insurance.

Judge Jeremy Poon Siu-chor of the Court of Appeal said Monday the case should go to the Court of Final Appeal as it raised questions of public importance, according to local media. The Court of Final Appeal will decide which aspects of the case to accept.

This latest court case for LGBTI rights comes after the Court of Final Appeal in July ruled Hong Kong’s immigration department must recognize same-sex unions in spousal visa applications.

Last week, the government changed its visa policy in line with the ruling.

Long battle for equality

Leung initially filed for judicial review in 2015. He alleged violations of the Basic Law, the Hong Kong Bill of Rights and the Sexual Discrimination Ordinance by his employers and the tax department.

They both refused to fully recognize his union as Hong Kong does not allow same-sex marriage.

In 2017, the Court of First Instance ruled the Civil Service Bureau should provide Leung’s husband spousal benefits. But it did not side with Leung on his application for joint tax returns.

Significantly, the judge said the ruling would not legalize same-sex marriage.

In July, however, Hong Kong’s Court of Appeal quashed the ruling. The judge argued that the city’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, favors heterosexual unions.

On Monday, the court allowed an appeal on some of the issues raised by Leung, but not all, according to local media.

The top court will rule on whether legal and societal circumstances should be considered in the case. It will also decide if there is a difference between opposite- and same-sex marriage when it comes to offering benefits to employees.

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