Hong Kong Court Overturns Civil Partnership Rights

A senior government official sued over its refusal to grant his husband benefits. He is now considering appealing to the city's top court.

A Hong Kong court has ruled the husband of a male civil servant is not entitled to spousal benefits, overturning a landmark lower court ruling from April of last year.

Angus Leung Chun-kwong, a senior immigration officer, filed a judicial review in 2015 against the government over its decision to deny medical and dental benefits to his spouse, Scott Paul Adams. The couple were legally wed in New Zealand in 2014. Marriage equality has still not come to China.

The lower court ruled against recognition of their marital status with a joint tax assessment, but ruled in favor of benefits for Adams. Both the couple and the government appealed the ruling.

“If spousal benefits and joint assessment, which have been long associated closely and exclusively with marriage, were made available to homosexual couples, it would per se undermine, or be perceived by many to undermine, the status of marriage,” wrote Court of Appeal Judge Jeremy Poon in his ruling against Leung, which was issued on Friday.

He added that the government was "the custodian of Hong Kong’s prevailing socio-moral values," differentiating them from the average employer.

The higher court also upheld the lower court's ruling against the couple’s request to jointly file their taxes. They are considering an appeal to the Court of Final Appeal, the city’s top court, which will soon decide a case involving a British woman, known as QT, who sued the government for refusing to issue her wife a visa.

In a statement, Leung called the ruling against him "a huge back step for equality in Hong Kong."

“We are not asking for special treatment, we just want to live our life fairly and with dignity," he added.

Chan Long Hei/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

HONG KONG - 2016/11/26: Thousands of people take part in the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender (LGBT) parade. The theme of the rally is "Get set, go for equal rights!" Green light is used as the symbol to express this theme. Participants chanted slogans, held rainbow banners and props to express their demand and determination on equal right for sexual minorities and fight against discrimination. (Photo by Chan Long Hei/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Thousands of people take part in the LGBT parade in Hong Kong, in 2016.

“I know a lot of people who have yet to come out, and they have encountered a lot of problems,” Leung told the South Morning China Post when asked why he decided to mount a legal challenge.

“So for us, who are blessed with our family’s support, I feel like I can take a step further to fight for equality for all of us.”

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