By Jerome Yau
If there were an international award for folly and hubris, Hong Kong’s government would likely be presented with it.
One year has gone by since the Court of Final Appeal handed down its landmark decision in the Angus Leung case, but inexplicably the Civil Service Bureau is still reviewing guidelines on granting spousal benefits to gay civil servants’ same-sex spouses.
More galling is that the government continues to waste public resources and taxpayers’ money on cases concerning LGBT+ equality. A recent example was the Nick Infinger case, when – following a resounding defeat – the government nonetheless filed an appeal.
And just weeks ago, counsel representing the government raised eyebrows in court by suggesting there was no discrimination in two important cases concerning gay couples.
Edgar Ng’s intestacy case concerned the injustice facing legally married same-sex couples – they are deprived of the protection provided to heterosexual married couples. It is a mere distraction to suggest that the situation can be mitigated by preparing a will and, fundamentally, discriminatory treatment is an affront to dignity and equality.
And, in the Jimmy Sham case, the non-recognition of overseas same-sex marriages goes to the heart of what equality means in Hong Kong. Apparently, some relationships are more equal than the others, and that is plain wrong.
A universal principle of good government is equal treatment for all under the law. Unfortunately, our government must have a different view, or else why do they try so hard to bleed the litigants dry in LGBT+ equality cases?
Around the world, 29 jurisdictions recognize same-sex marriages. The indisputable evidence is that the institution of marriage remains strong in those places, and certainly, there is no fire and brimstone raining down from heaven.
The road to marriage equality is never easy and straightforward, but questions must be asked about why the government treats LGBT+ persons as second class citizens.
It is not too late for the government to have an epiphany. As a start, observe the legal precedents and stop defending the indefensible. This should followed by convening a community forum and working with the LGBT+ community and relevant stakeholders on anti-discrimination law and same-sex marriage.
Hong Kong prides itself on being an international city, and we can make it more welcoming and successful by embracing LGBT+ persons. After all, it makes no sense to perpetuate Victorian morality, and as the great Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw said, “We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility for our future.”
Jerome Yau is co-founder of Hong Kong Marriage Equality and chief executive of Pink