The city’s LGBTQ community welcomed the court case victory, which came after a stressful five-year-long battle.
Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal has ruled in favour of a gay civil servant applying for spousal benefits for his husband.
Angus Leung, an immigration officer who married his husband Scott Adams in New Zealand in 2014 filed a judicial review in 2015, following the Civil Service Bureau’s rejection to change his marital status and grant benefits to his husband.
The top court on Thursday also approved another application from Leung that he and his husband be jointly taxed.
In a unanimous decision, Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma and four other CFA judges ruled that Hong Kong’s civil service and Inland Revenue Department both failed to justify their policy towards Leung, and by extension other same-sex married couples.
According to the 32-page judgement, the judges pointed out that the protection of heterosexual marriage was a legitimate aim, but there was no connection between that and the policies of Hong Kong’s civil service and taxation authority.
“How is it said that allowing Mr Adams medical and dental benefits weakens the institution of marriage in Hong Kong? Similarly, how does permitting the appellant to elect for joint assessment of his income tax liability under [tax law] impinge on the institution of marriage in Hong Kong?” The judges wrote.
“It cannot logically be argued that any person is encouraged to enter into an opposite-sex marriage in Hong Kong because a same-sex spouse is denied those benefits or to joint assessment to taxation.”
Overjoyed and relived, the couple greeted the reporters and supporters hand-in-hand outside the court following their victory in court case.
“It is a small step for equality in Hong Kong. It was a long and stressful journey to get the results today. It is not right for any individual to go through such a process to get equality rights," said Leung and Adams in a statement.
We urge the government to review and amend all the discriminatory legislation and policies to prevent further legal battles, which are costly, time-consuming and unnecessary,” The couple welcomed the judgement while calling for an end to all discriminatory legislation.
In 2017, the Court of First Instance sided with Leung in the spousal benefit application, with judge Anderson Chow writing that allowing benefits to same-sex partners would not constitute indirect legalisation of same-sex marriage.
However, the decision was overturned by the Court of Appeal last June, which said that the Basic Law favours heterosexual marriage and therefore it is not discriminatory for gay people to be excluded from marrying.
The court’s decision was met with joy from Hong Kong’s LGBTQ community, as the first openly gay lawmaker Ray Chan sharing the news with the hashtag “love wins”.
Advocacy group Pink Alliance also congratulated the couple on their hard-fought victory, while urged the government to take more actions to protect rights in the wake of the ruling.