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Hong Kong equality watchdog dismisses calls for same-sex marriage

Hong Kong equality watchdog dismisses calls for same-sex marriage

Same-sex marriage supporters gather outside Taiwan's parliament (Photo: Facebook)

Hong Kong’s equality watchdog on Friday (17 May) dismissed calls for Hong Kong to follow Taiwan’s lead in legalizing same-sex marriage,

Taiwan became the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage on Friday (17 May).

At an evening of solidarity to mark International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT) in Hong Kong, activists called for similar rights in Hong Kong.

‘Each society has its unique social circumstances’ said the head of the government equality watchdog the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) Ricky Chu, according to the SCMP.

‘We cannot directly compare Taiwan’s new law with Hong Kong’s situation’ he said.

He urged LGBTI rights campaigners to take things step by step to break an ‘eternal stalemate’.

‘Instead of focusing on abstract and ideological debates that we can never easily come to an agreement on, let’s make small progress in tackling discrimination at the workplace, schools and public facilities.’

Lesbian heiress and co-founder of Hong Kong Marriage Equality said the Taiwan vote proved ‘we must never give up’.

‘We now know that marriage equality can be achieved across different societies and cultures, once public understanding becomes widespread’ she said.

‘Same-sex marriage values are traditional values: we all embrace the concept of the family
as a unifying force in our Asian society’, she also said.

Hong Kong’s only gay lawmaker, meanwhile, also welcomed the news.

Taiwan’s historic day

Taiwan became the first place in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage on Friday (17 May).

The country’s parliament voted in favor of a government bill offering same-sex couples similar rights to opposite-sex couples.

It comes after years of court rulings, referendums, and tussles in parliament.

The bill passed with 93 lawmakers voting for the bill, 66 opposing, and 27 abstaining.

Thousands of LGBTI rights supporters gathered outside parliament cheered as the vote was announced.

It was the result of work by LGBTI groups over the last 30 years, said Benson Lee of Marriage Equality Coalition Taiwan.

‘Legislators have come forward and stood on the side of love’ he also told Gay Star News.

He said the movement will not stop here. ‘We will continue our work in eradicating discrimination and bullying and defending LGBTI education’.

In a last-minute effort to appease conservative lawmakers, Taiwan’s ruling party on Friday removed the word ‘marriage’ from the bill.

But, same-sex couples can still get register for marriage in the same way as other couples.

Couples can only adopt children if the child is the biological child of one of the couple.

Taiwan is the regional leader for LGBTI rights. Thailand’s ruling junta last year submitted a union bill to cabinet, affording limited rights to same-sex couples.

LGBTI rights in Hong Kong

Same-sex marriage is not legal in Hong Kong. What’s more, there is currently no legislation to protect citizens against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, last month said the government was no closer to legalizing same-sex marriage.

The leader said the issue was still ‘controversial’.

But, earlier this year, two gay men won the right to challenge laws banning same-sex marriage.

A 21-year-old University Hong Kong student, known as TF, and a 31-year-old activist, known as STK, are leading the challenges.

In July last year, however, Hong Kong’s LGBTI had a reason to celebrate.

The Court of Final Appeal ruled the immigration department must recognize overseas same-sex marriages when issuing spousal visas.