The top court in Hong Kong has ordered the city government to draw up a framework for same-sex unions over the next two years despite the city’s refusal to legally recognize these unions.
This ruling follows an appeal by activist Jimmy Sham who has been fighting for five years for the recognition of his union with his husband, which was officiated in a New York wedding in 2013. He has been pro-democracy activist fighting for same-sex marriages registered abroad to be recognized in Hong Kong for the past five years, according to the Associated Press.
In 2019, when Hong Kong saw many anti-government protests after the National Security Law was passed in China criminalizing sedition, Sham was a leading figure on the pro-democracy side. He was arrested along with 47 other activists who participated in the protests, and has been in detention since 2020. Before that he was convener for the Civil Human Rights Front. But even from prison, Sham continues to fight for LGBTQ+ rights.
The framework the court is requesting would provide same-sex couples “a sense of legitimacy, dispelling any sense that they belong to an inferior class of persons whose relationship is undeserving of recognition.” Two years have been allotted for the framework’s planning.
Hong Kong had the chance to legally recognize same-sex union back in 2019, following the legalization of same-sex marriage in Taiwan, which is still the only Asian country to officially acknowledge same-sex unions as legitimate.
The BBC reports polls reveal an increase in public support for same-sex unions in Hong Kong. A 2023 survey indicates 60% of people support these unions, a number which has almost doubled in the past decade.
Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, Member of the Executive Council of Hong Kong called the ruling “a victory” for the LGBTQ+ community, but it seems that few other members of the local government have commented on the decision.
Other Asian countries have also been taking strides to integrate more inclusive legislation. A judge in Nepal recently ordered the government to commence the registration of same-sex unions as new legislation is prepared.
The New York Times predicts the LGBTQ+ community in Hong Kong will turn its attention to the parameters of this new legal framework moving forward. Hong Kong’s city government has made no comment on the ruling.