Hong Kong’s High Court has struck down a ban on same-sex couples accessing public housing.
And now homophobic lawmakers are worrying the ruling may pave the way for same-sex marriage.
The housing case was brought by Nick Infinger and his partner. They married in 2018 in Canada.
But when they applied to rent a public housing flat as an ‘ordinary family’, Hong Kong’s housing authority rejected them.
The board argued that the Oxford English Dictionary definition of a husband is ‘a married man, especially in relation to his wife’. However, the dictionary now includes same-sex partnerships within its definition of marriage.
Today Judge Anderson Chow ruled in favor of Infinger.
He said the authority was ‘unable to justify’ the difference in treatment between mixed and same-sex couples.
Hong Kong does not allow same-sex marriage. However, the judge referred to the country’s constitutional document – Basic Law. It guarantees equality and protection from discrimination for all.
The judge therefore concluded the authority excluding same-sex couples from applying for public housing is ‘unlawful and unconstitutional’.
‘Critical impact’ on Hong Kong’s same-sex marriage ban
However, the victory is still in danger.
A pair of prominent lawmakers have called on the government to appeal. They believe the case threatens the current policy of mixed-sex only marriages.
The Standard in Hong Kong says Holden Chow, from the biggest pro-Beijing party, the DAB, thinks the case will undermine ‘traditional family values’ in the city.
He claims to have received feedback from anti-LGBT+ campaigners:
‘They have grave concerns about the decision handed down today.
‘There is a perception and a fear within the public that the decision handed down by the court today would kind of acknowledge the same-sex marriage in Hong Kong.’
And Priscilla Leung from the BPA, another pro-Beijing political party, described the court’s decision as a blow to heterosexual marriage.
Leung, who is a lawyer, admitted the judgement has a ‘critical impact’ on marriage in Hong Kong.
And she added: ‘We need public discussion, not the courts, to decide on our marriage system.’
‘A triumph’ and a ‘wake-up call’
Meanwhile the director of Amnesty International Hong Kong, Man-Kei Tam, has welcomed the court’s decision:
‘This ruling is a triumph for equality and LGBTI rights, and a significant step forward in the fight against discrimination at the highest levels of Hong Kong society.
‘The Hong Kong government’s refusal to provide public housing to two married men based purely on their sexual orientation is a despicable affront to their human rights. No one should face discrimination because of who they are or who they love.
‘After the High Court’s welcome intervention, the authorities must ensure housing applications from same-sex couples are treated exactly the same as everyone else’s.
‘Today must be a wake-up call to the Hong Kong government, which must urgently review all its laws and policies to ensure no one else faces discrimination based on their sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status.’
Meanwhile Rainbow Action, a local LGBT+ group, welcomed the court ruling. And it also urged the government to immediately introduce policies to protect LGBT+ people from discrimiation.