Asia Minute: Hong Kong High Court Rules in Favor of Gay Civil Servant

Jun 7, 2019

Angus Leung Chun-kwong, a senior immigration officer, right, and Scott Adams, a same-sex couple who married in New Zealand speak to the media outside the Court of Final Appeal in Hong Kong, Thursday, June 6, 2019. Hong Kong's Court of Final Appeal said Thursday the government cannot deny spousal employment benefits to same-sex couples, in a ruling hailed as a major step forward for same-sex equality in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.
Credit AP Photo/Kin Cheung

It’s been about five and a half years since same-sex marriage has been legal in Hawaii. In most countries in the Asia Pacific, those marriages are not recognized. But LGBT activists are cheering a decision this week by the highest court in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal has ended a four-year legal battle in favor of a gay civil servant who wanted spousal and tax benefits for his husband.

The story begins in 2014, when Hong Kong immigration officer Angus Leung married Scott Adams in New Zealand. But Mr. Adams was denied the benefits granted to the spouses of Hong Kong civil servants — including medical coverage.

The couple sued the government — starting a process that first supported the couple, but then was reversed on appeal only to have the high court reverse it again — ruling in favor of the couple and agreeing that denying the benefits would be discriminatory.

Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma asked, “How is it said that allowing Mr. Adams medical and dental benefits weakens the institution of marriage in Hong Kong?”

The nonprofit news organization Hong Kong Free Press quotes a statement from the couple calling the decision “a small step for equality in Hong Kong.”

Adding, “We urge the government to review and amend all the discriminatory legislation and polices to prevent further legal battles — which are costly, time-consuming, and unnecessary.”

Just last month, Taiwan’s government became the first in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage.

That process of changing the law in Taiwan’s legislature began with a decision from the island’s Constitutional Court.