A Hong Kong civil servant who registered a same-sex marriage in New Zealand has won a legal challenge against the government, obtaining civil service welfare benefits for his husband.

However, the High Court on Friday rejected his judicial review application for the Inland Revenue Department to jointly assess his taxes with his husband.

high court
Photo: HKFP/Ellie Ng.

The court heard that applicant Angus Leung – an immigration officer – married his husband Scott Adams in New Zealand in 2014, reported HK01.

Leung applied to the Civil Service Bureau for a change in his marital status to obtain welfare, such as medical benefits, for Adams. But the bureau did not allow the change and denied benefits to Adams, stating that Hong Kong does not recognise same-sex marriages.

The Inland Revenue Department recognised Leung’s change of marital status, but did not allow the couple to file a joint assessment of their taxes.

Leung filed for judicial review in 2015, alleging violations of the Basic Law, the Hong Kong Bill of Rights and the Sexual Discrimination Ordinance.

Not the legalisation of same-sex marriage

In his judgement, Judge Anderson Chow wrote that the allowance of benefits to same-sex marriage partners would not constitute an indirect legalisation of same-sex marriage. He added that the ruling on benefits would take effect on September 1, reported Commercial Radio.

Gay rights LGBTQ hong kong
Photo: HKFP.

However, Chow rejected Leung’s application for joint assessment of taxes because he would have paid the same amount of taxes in an individual application.

Lawmaker Ray Chan, who is openly gay, told reporters on Friday afternoon that he was happy about the verdict regarding civil service benefits, but urged the Hong Kong government to introduce civil unions or same-sex marriages.

See also: Gov’t made exception to allow same-sex spouses of consular staff to remain in Hong Kong

“Leung won because the government has internal anti-discrimination regulations saying that it cannot treat employees differently because of their sexual orientation,” he said. “In the absence of a [civil union or same-sex marriage] mechanism, the government closed its eyes and did not address the problem – this is against its own regulations.”

He said that the ruling could force the government to take the need for civil unions or same-sex marriages more seriously, even though Hong Kong society is still a long way from accepting these arrangements.

Elson Tong is a graduate of international relations and former investigations consultant. He has also written for Stand News.