A senior immigration officer has applied for judicial review with the High Court after government departments refused to recognise his marriage to his same-sex partner.

The officer joined the Immigration Department in 2002. He married his partner, who is also a Hong Kong resident, in New Zealand last April. He then applied for spousal benefits with the Civil Service Bureau.

However, the Bureau, citing the Marriage Ordinance, said that the definition of marriage was the union of a man and a woman and that the applicant did not meet that criterion. Therefore, his spouse was not entitled to benefits under the civil servants scheme, The Hong Kong Economic Times reported.

high court
Photo: HKFP.

The applicant also tried to apply for joint tax assessment with his partner from the Inland Revenue Department, but the Department replied saying that under the Inland Revenue Ordinance, taxpayers cannot file tax returns with their same-sex partners.

The applicant said that the Director of the Civil Service Bureau and the Inland Revenue Department, in refusing to recognise a valid marriage performed overseas, violated the Basic Law, the Sex Discrimination Ordinance, and the Code of Practice against Discrimination in Employment on the Ground of Sexual Orientation.

The Equal Opportunities Commission.

He is seeking to overturn the government’s decisions, which he said are discriminatory. He is also asking the court to declare his marriage as valid, so that he and his partner could enjoy benefits and file for tax returns as a married couple.

The Civil Service Bureau, Inland Revenue Department and Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) said that as judicial proceedings have begun, it is not appropriate for them to comment. A spokesperson from the EOC said that existing anti-discrimination laws do not cover discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation. Therefore, they were unable to handle complaints relating to the matter.

There has been increasing discussion about introducing such legislation, with the EOC having commissioned a feasibility study on the question in 2014. The Commission is due to release the study report early next year and has also completed public consultations on a review of the discrimination law, according to a press release issued on December 17, 2015.

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.