Over 27,000 individuals, 80 civil groups and five lawmakers have urged the government to appeal a High Court decision that grants welfare benefits to a gay civil servant for his husband.
“The ruling effectively recognises same-sex marriage. It seriously affects our marriage system and the traditional family values of marriage between a man and a woman,” pro-Beijing lawmaker and lawyer Priscilla Leung said Tuesday.
She said she signed a joint statement urging the government to appeal the decision with four other lawmakers – Holden Chow, Junius Ho, Michael Tien and Shiu Ka-fai – and 20-plus civil groups.
Despite the landmark ruling over welfare benefits, the civil servant lost in the case of tax benefits as the court ruled in favour of the Inland Revenue Department in refusing to recognise same-sex marriage.
The difference is owing to the fact that Hong Kong’s tax law states clearly that marriage is only between a man and a woman, while the Civil Service Regulations stipulate that “spouses” may enjoy welfare benefits without defining the term.
Leung said the decision on welfare benefits goes against existing marriage laws. She added: “We cannot have a law that recognises same-sex marriage registered overseas, and another law that does not.”
Stating a need to “protect traditional family values,” Leung said the decision might lead to the collapse of the marriage system as some foreign countries recognise polygamy.
Lawmaker and lawyer Junius Ho expressed concern that the ruling might set a bad precedent and lead to chaos in society.
Over 27,000 individuals and 80 groups also signed a petition with the same request. The organiser – the Society For Truth And Light – said it “deeply regretted” the ruling, which “will have a profound impact on other housing and welfare policies.”
“Any changes to the marriage system must involve the public and be passed by the legislature. The judiciary must not overstep its role,” it said.
But Leung Chau-ting of Hong Kong Civil Servants General Union said anyone – regardless of their sexual orientation – should be entitled to welfare benefits before the Civil Service Regulations have a clear definition of spouses, RTHK reported.
He rejected claims by critics that the ruling would lead to more public spending on civil servant benefits.
Gay rights advocate Jimmy Sham of Rainbow Action said earlier this month that there is still a long way to go when it comes to attaining LGBT equality, especially given the government’s passive attitude and “serious discrimination” against sexual minorities in the workplace.
“Gay rights can only be fought in the courts. The government rarely takes the initiative to review its policies and ensure equal rights for gay people,” he said.
The ruling takes effect on September 1. The Civil Service Bureau has yet to make a decision as to how to give effect to the judgment.