General News

Hong Kong: Court Refuses to Recognise Overseas Same-Sex Marriages

Paul Wright September 22, 2020

A court in Hong Kong  has refused to recognise same-sex marriages conducted abroad.

In a massive blow for the local LGBTQ+ community, the Judge said “The applicant’s attempt in the present case to achieve complete parity of legal recognition of foreign same-sex marriages and foreign opposite-sex marriages is too ambitious,” Anderson Chow wrote in his judgement. The case was brought by Jimmy Sham, a local district councillor. In 2013 he married his partner in New York and argued that Hong Kong should recognise all LGBT marriages registered overseas and that refusal to do so was “highly unfair and discriminatory.”

Speaking to the media after the court reached its verdict, Jimmy said “This is unjust, why are gay people seen as too ambitious when we fight for our rights?” Rubbing salt into the wound of injustice, the courts heard a similar case earlier in the day featuring a heterosexual couple who married in London. They were granted local recognition of their marriage. Local LGBTQ+ rights group Hong Kong Marriage Equality said that “The court missed its chance to advance the legal status of overseas married same-sex couples.”

In a separate case, the court did agree that LGBT couples who marry overseas do have inheritance rights even if their is no rule.  The Hong Kong government had tried to argue that to confer the inheritance rights to LGBT couples would undermine the institution of marriage. The Judge said this was illogical, though his affirmative ruling does not apply to civil partnerships or unions conducted overseas. Last year Hong Kong upheld a local ban on civil partnerships.

Travel to Hong Kong by UK citizens is not restricted at the time of writing, however the UK government does note that traveller’s electronic devices are checked on entry.