A transgender Filipino pastor of a small church in Hong Kong is taking the government to court over the right to conduct same-sex weddings.
In 2017, 62-year-old Marrz Balaoro, was arrested after conducting more than 20 same-sex weddings at the small church he runs for the Filipino community in Hong Kong.
Same-sex marriage is not legal in Hong Kong.
The police investigation led nowhere, but Balaoro is now suing the government to make sure he is not at risk again.
‘I do not want to fail those LGBT couples’ Balaoro, who works as a domestic helper, told Gay Star News.
He is arguing that his right to perform same-sex ceremonies at his Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Straight (LGBTS) Christian Church is enshrined in religious freedom rights in the city.
He and his lawyers claim his ceremonies do not contradict the city’s marriage law.
‘It is our religious freedom, our right to perform those ceremonies’ he said.
‘It is just a celebration, to get a blessing, I don’t think it should be hampered. They should not be prevented from doing it because it is a religious activity.’
Marriage rights in Hong Kong
Hong Kong does not recognize same-sex marriages.
Chinese society puts a lot of emphasis on heterosexual families and there are no legal anti-discrimination protections.
The city only decriminalized gay sex in 1991.
Many LGBTI citizens do not come out to their family and colleagues.
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.
Earlier this year, two gay men won the right to challenge laws banning same-sex marriage.
Balaoro hopes his case will prompt Hong Kong’s government to open up on same-sex unions.
‘If I win this case, this will open more possibilities’ he told Gay Star News.