Hong Kong: ‘Small step’ in push for civil unions for gay couples shot down

A proposal by Hong Kong’s only openly gay lawmaker that the government study the idea of creating legal unions for homosexual couples has been shot down by the city’s legislature after a heated debate.

People Power legislator Raymond Chan Chi-chuen on Thursday raised a motion urging officials to consider granting greater rights, but it was voted down 27 to 24.

The government said the vote reflected the diverse range of opinion in the city, and that any changes to the institution of marriage would have a profound influence on society.

Hong Kong does not recognise same-sex marriage and has no legislation in place against discrimination based on sexual orientation. A poll by the University of Hong Kong in July showed more than half of city residents would support gay marriage.

Chan said his proposal was mild and merely aimed at sparking discussion. “The government keeps avoiding studying policies for homosexual groups,” he said.

“Opponents of this motion have to explain why they reject even such a small step forward.”

Echoing his call were pro-democracy legislators Au Nok-hin and Gary Fan Kwok-wai, who filed amendments to the motion in support of Chan’s arguments. Fan included a clause which said same-sex couples should enjoy a range of rights currently denied, including the right to make important medical decisions on a partner’s behalf, and the ability to collect a partner’s body after death.

Most pro-establishment lawmakers however were more conservative.

Dr Priscilla Leung Mei-fun called on the government to refrain from “shaking existing marriage institutions … to ensure social and family stability”. Read more via SCMP