In a significant development for the global financial hub, Hong Kong’s Court of Appeal has dismissed a government bid to deny inheritance rights to same-sex married couples, deeming such refusal an “unacceptably harsh burden.” The ruling marks another legal triumph for the LGBTQ+ rights movement in Hong Kong and may serve as a catalyst for similar discussions in neighboring Asian jurisdictions like Singapore and Japan.
Hong Kong, although currently not permitting same-sex marriage, has seen couples marrying in countries where such unions are legal. The recent court ruling stemmed from a city government appeal against a 2020 decision affirming equal inheritance rights for same-sex married couples under local laws.
Judges Peter Cheung, Maria Yuen, and Thomas Au, in a written judgment, found that the government’s appeal had “failed in all grounds.” They argued, “There’s no reason why foreign same-sex marriages cannot be similarly admitted as a matter of the principle of equality of treatment.” While the decision was welcomed by activists, many called for more comprehensive reforms.
Jerome Yau, a spokesperson from the group Hong Kong Marriage Equality, remarked, “We have been saying the best option for the government is to implement a comprehensive system to recognize same-sex partnerships.” Yau stressed that same-sex marriage remained the “only proven and permanent solution” for Hong Kong.
Although Hong Kong’s highest court ruled against same-sex marriage in September, it granted the government a two-year window to establish a legal framework for recognizing unions among same-sex couples. Last week, the Court of Appeal also rejected a government attempt to deny same-sex married couples the right to rent and own public housing, denouncing it as “discriminatory in nature” and a complete denial of their rights. This series of rulings underscores the ongoing progress in the fight for LGBTQ+ equality within Hong Kong’s legal system.