A Hong Kong judge tasked with ruling on whether to allow civil union partnerships for LGBTI couples ruled earlier this week (23 April) that religion will not define marriage.
Lawyers for the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong, China – the city’s largest church – asked the High Court for permission to join the legal debate as an interested party, the South China Morning Post reported.
While they argued it would provide a more rounded definition of marriage, the judge ultimately refused as the church’s argument was based not on law but ‘social’ views.
Hong Kong does not recognize same-sex marriages – sans from spousal visas – made possible by a landmark ruling by the city’s top court last year.
But in the present case, a lesbian known only as MK filed a case against this. Mr Justice Anderson Chow Ka-ming is the judge.
She argued that the lack of legal options for her to form a civil union with her partner impinged on her right to privacy and equality. Ergo, going against the city’s Basic Law, its mini-constitution.
She filed the court action against the government in June last year. Courts will hear the case on 28 May.
Barrister Thomas Wong Wai-kit, for the Christian Diocese, said the church sought to include in the decision a more ‘rounded picture’ of Christian-defined marriage.
However, after hearing their statements, Ka-ming refused to let the groups join the litigation.
He said: ‘It needs to be emphasized the court cannot arbitrate on social, moral, religious, or theological issues, and does not decide cases based on such a consideration.
‘The court’s only proper rules… is to determine the application based strictly on legal considerations.’
LGBTI rights in Hong Kong
As a British colony, Hong Kong’s criminal laws against male queer acts were initially a reflection of British law. The penal code never criminalized female queer sex.
But during the 1970s and 80s, Chinese citizens questioned if the law was in line with human rights. In 1991, Chinese courts legalized male queer acts.
Since then, LGBTI citizens have seen a slow and ropey road to progress.
The region does not recognize same-sex marriages or civil unions. Moreover, the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance 1991 does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual and gender identity.
Moreover, Hong Kong law does allow the changing of legal documents, such as identity card and passport, for trans citizens.