Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Marco Wan on Hong Kong's Unique Traditions of Marriage and the Same-Sex Civil Servant's Case (SCMP)

"Gay marriage would be more at home among Hong Kong's traditions than court suggests"
South China Morning Post
7 June 2018
In the latest twist in the saga of same-sex unions in Hong Kong, the Court of Appeal ruled against Angus Leung Chun-kwong, the gay civil servant who asked the government not to discriminate against him by granting him and his male partner, whom he married abroad, spousal benefits, and allowing them to file their taxes jointly. The court notes that Leung’s claims were inconsistent with the local culture, history and tradition upon which the contemporary understanding of marriage is built.
     However, a closer look at Hong Kong’s unique traditions of marriage suggests that these traditions actually support Leung’s case. Decades of gay rights litigation have taught us that the past that gets evoked to resist change is often more imaginary than real, and any use of it, whether by courts, politicians or activists, should be scrutinised.
    In ruling against Leung, the court underscores that Hong Kong’s prevailing socio-moral values militate against any official recognition of his marriage. Crucially, it emphasises that such societal views are primary considerations for both the court and the government because they are derived from long-standing local practices and beliefs associated with marriage. Granting spousal benefits or joint tax assessment to gay and lesbian couples, then, would be tantamount to going against the history of marriage in Hong Kong.
     The court is insistent on this point: phrases like “the Hong Kong context”, “history”, “tradition” and “long usage” appear repeatedly in the judgment.
     This inward turn towards the city’s supposedly unassailable lineage also underpins the court’s sidelining of developments in the long line of pro-gay jurisdictions around the world, including that of Britain, the United States, Taiwan and European countries like France and Germany... Click here to read the full article.

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