Everyday fight: LGBTQ life in Hong Kong – KeYou
The former British colony that went under Chinese rule in 1997, Hong Kong has been struggling to provide equal rights for LGBTQ people since 1991 when same-sex marriage was decriminalized. Ever since the same-sex couples should go to court to defend their basic rights. Despite some progress in court rulings, the same-sex marriage has not been legally recognized yet causing troubles for LGBTQ couples compared to others.
Michael Vidler who found a law firm in Hong Kong in 2003 is one of the attorneys being at the front line to protect LGBTQ rights via judicial reviews. In recent years he has succeeded in several cases appealing to Hong Kong Basic Law. In 2013 the transgender woman has won the right to marry her boyfriend that was initially denied based on her birth certificate gender (male). In 2018 the case brought to the court by a lesbian ended up with a ruling allowing dependent visa for her partner. The most recent victory has granted spousal benefits for the same-sex couples. Vidler is currenly leading a dozen of other cases and hopes they will finally result in a ban for the same-sex marriage being removed. Michael’s work is, however, quite risky. “A judicial review is always a risk. Because if you lose, you can set the cause back by a decade,” he said.
The most recent case to be heard on September 26 aims to provide a right for public housing to the same-sex couples. The case is brought to the court by Nick Infinger, 26. He and his partner married in Canada and applied for affordable housing in Hong Kong but were denied. The couple met all the requirements to be eligible for public apartment rental: permanent residence, absence of local property owned, and being within the income limit. The reason for denial the housing authorities was the definition of the “ordinary family” given in the dictionary as including male and female. However, Nick is determined in winning his right in court. “Everyone needs a place to live. Housing rights are important to same-sex couples, too. I wish to claim that right for all same-sex couples in Hong Kong,” he said. The right of having a place to live is among the fundamental ones and should be ruled as soon as possible.
Hong Kong authorities are very conservative in changing legislation to meet the needs of LGBTQ people. Carrie Lam, Hong Kong Chief Executive stated the government has no plans to approve same-sex marriage in the nearest future as of July, 2018. At the same time, Ricky Chu, the Chairman of the Equal Opportunities Commission has suggested in step-by-step approach in May, 2019. That is to start with anti-discrimination initiatives being implemented. The struggle continues but there is still hope for LGBTQ people.