It seems like it’s one step forward and one step back for gay rights in Hong Kong. After the Hong Kong High Court struck down laws against gay sex earlier this year, the Hong Kong Court of First Instance has ruled against marriage equality.
According to the South China Morning Post, Court of First Instance judge Justice Anderson Chow Ka-ming said Hong Kong law currently doesn’t cover same-sex marriage and that the court ruling on it would be “beyond the proper scope of the functions and powers of the court to change a social policy on a fundamental issue.”
The court took up the case after a lesbian known as MK said her constitutional rights were being violated by the government not providing the options of civil union partnerships or marriage.
While laws against gay sex have been struck down in Hong Kong, same-sex marriage is only recognized in specific instances, such as during visa applications when couples have married overseas, when it involves civil servant benefits, or when taxation is involved.
Tam Man-kei, Amnesty International’s director in Hong Kong, called the ruling “a bitter blow to the city’s sexual minorities.”
That said, the ruling does not mean that there is no longer a chance for marriage equality to become a reality in Hong Kong. As the South China Morning Post points out, the court could issue a new interpretation when appropriate. Even Chow, the judge who ruled against the case, called on the Hong Kong government to make a comprehensive review of its laws connected to the issue.
“The failure to do so will inevitably lead to specific legislations, or policies or decisions of the government or other public bodies being challenged in court on the ground of discrimination on an ad-hoc basis, resulting in an incoherent state of the law,” he said.