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Half of Hong Kong universities offer spousal benefits to same-sex married couples

Half of Hong Kong universities offer spousal benefits to same-sex married couples

Hong Kong Polytechnic University does not offer spousal benefits to same-sex married couples (Photo: Wikimedia)

Four out of eight public universities in Hong Kong offer spousal benefits to employees in same-sex marriages.

Three more universities do not have a defined policy, and one does not recognize same-sex spouses.

Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP) surveyed Hong Kong’s eight public universities funded by the government’s University Grants Committee.

The findings come as a gay civil servant takes the government to Hong Kong’s top court for refusing to offer his husband benefits.

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

Spousal benefits

Same-sex marriage is not legal in Hong Kong. It also does not have legislation to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

But, in a landmark ruling in July, the Court of Final Appeal ruled same-sex spouses will be able to apply for dependent visas to stay with their partners.

The new policy, enacted this month, means anyone who entered legally and officially recognized same-sex civil partnerships, civil unions or marriages overseas could apply for spousal visas.

The City University of Hong Kong, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and Hong Kong Baptist University, all said they offered varying benefits to the legal spouses of employees in same-sex relationships.

These include medical and dental cover. Some offered benefits conditional on the partner not receiving benefits from their own employer.

The Hong Kong Polytechnic University told HKFP they did not provide medical benefits to married same-sex couples.

What’s more, the city’s three other public universities, including the University of Hong Kong, did not give clear responses.

Alfred Ip, Chairman of NGO Pink Alliance, told HKFP it was ‘good news.’ He welcomed the four universities that were ‘taking the lead in recognizing same-sex marriages’.

He said, however, it was unfortunate that public institutions, rather than the government, were leading on this.

Hong Kong’s next big court case

Earlier this month, a Hong Kong judge allowed Leung to take the government to the Court of Final Appeal for refusing to grant his partner spousal benefits.

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

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.

The top court will rule on whether legal and societal circumstances should be considered in the case.

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