Hong Kong’s top court on Tuesday upheld a ruling that favours granting equal inheritance rights to same-sex couples, rejecting the government’s motion and marking the latest victory for the city’s LGBTQ+ community.
The Court of Appeal in Hong Kong rejected the government’s motion that claimed that the differential treatment facing same-sex couples under two inheritance laws in the city constitutes unlawful discrimination.
The court said that the inheritance laws were an “unacceptably harsh burden on same-sex couples lawfully married overseas,” and that it has a duty to “severely” scrutinise whether differential treatment based on grounds of sexual orientation is reasonable and necessary, reported the Washington Post
“The differential treatment based on sexual orientation is apparent,” Justice of Appeal Peter Cheung wrote in his judgment. Hong Kong recognises same-sex marriage for taxation, civil service benefits and dependant visas.
The ruling followed a years-long battle by Henry Li and his late partner Edgar Ng. The latter was concerned that his subsidised flat, purchased after their marriage in London, would not be passed to Li after his death. Edgar passed away in 2020 to depression.
In a statement issued by his solicitors, Li said he hopes the government will respect the judgment. “It added insult to injury – that the government repeatedly argued in open court I am not Edgar’s husband and should be treated as a stranger to him, while I was still mourning,” he said.
Nongovernmental organization Hong Kong Marriage Equality also called on the Hong Kong government not to appeal the judgment.
Rights of same-sex couples in Hong Kong
Last week, the court upheld two earlier rulings in support of granting subsidised housing benefits for same-sex couples. The court also delivered a landmark verdict in September calling on the government to provide a framework for recognising same-sex partnerships.
Many of the government’s concessions were won through legal challenges in recent years as the city has seen a growing social acceptance of same-sex marriage. The latest ruling is expected to have a strong impact on the lives of same-sex couples from Hong Kong, who married overseas.
However, Hong does not allow same-sex marriage but the judicial system has helped in some progress on LGBTQ rights. However, the Hong Kong government has three weeks’ time to appeal the court’s Tuesday decision.
It is worth noticing that Hong Kong is coming more under the control of Beijing, which has aggressively restricted the space for LGBTQ and gender rights activism within China. The city’s annual gay pride parade has been cancelled since 2020, and its first queer radio show was canceled in August after 17 years on the air.
(with AP inputs)