Hong Kong’s High Court Rules in Favor of Same-Sex Spousal and Tax Benefits

Hong Kong’s high court ruled on Thursday, June 6, in favor of a gay civil servant fighting for spousal benefits for his husband, as well as the right to file taxes jointly.

The Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal found in favor of senior immigration officer Angus Leung Chun-kwong, who works in the semiautonomous Chinese territory, and married his British husband, Scott Adams, in New Zealand in 2014. The court said the government failed to justify the discriminatory treatment of same-sex couples.

Hong Kong gay spousal rights

Winson Wong/South China Morning Post via Getty Images

Leung (left) with Adams (right).

A lower court ruled partially partially ruled in Leung’s favor, granting spousal benefits but not joint filing rights. That prompted both sides to appeal to a higher court, which ruled in the government’s favor, overturning same-sex spousal benefits. Leung then appealed to the highest court, winning in a unanimous ruling.

Same-sex marriage is still not permitted in the city, even with this historic ruling, but the development is nonetheless being celebrated by the LGBTQ community and allies as progress. It follows last year’s ruling by the high court granting spousal visas to same-sex couples.

Last month, Taiwan legalized marriage equality, a historic first for Asia.

A survey conducted by the University of Hong Kong last year found 50% of respondents supported legalizing same-sex marriage, the ban on which is currently being challenged in court for the first time.

Man-kei Tam, director of Amnesty International in Hong Kong, called Thursday’s ruling a “huge step forward for equality in Hong Kong,” in a statement. “This victory brings Hong Kong more in line with its international obligation to respect, protect and fulfill the rights of people with different sexual orientations.”

Raymond Chan, Hong Kong’s first openly gay lawmaker, noted the court’s decision “makes it possible for all other current and future civil servants to enjoy the rights they should be entitled to.”

“As it becomes increasingly clear that in the eyes of the court, the LGBT community should not be treated unequally before the law, the Government should use its resources and public funds wisely to review existing laws and policies to study, suggest, and enact rectifications to discriminatory laws and policies. In so doing, Hong Kong earns its reputation as an open and tolerant society.”

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