Not just a legal but a social issue
I previously worked at one of the few human rights law firms in Hong Kong. A landmark case handled by the firm was W v. Registrar of Marriages. It was a judicial review of the Government’s refusal to register a marriage of a transgendered person (who was born male and became female) and her boyfriend. After years of legal battle, the Court of Final Appeal ruled in favour the applicant. She was allowed to marry her boyfriend. Though equal rights remain elusive in Hong Kong, it was a victory for LGBT activists nonetheless.
Being gay was illegal until 1991
In the UK, our previous colonial masters, homosexuality has been decriminalized since 1967. However, it remained illegal in Hong Kong, where a convicted homosexual was liable to life imprisonment. Of course, the sentence was rarely if ever enforced but the law was there until 1991, when it was no longer a crime to be gay. Whilst there have been many advances in LGBT rights in Western societies where gay marriage has become legal, Hong Kong remains conservative and it remains a taboo amongst older generations.
The question matters to all of us
I used to think that the issue with gay rights was not my problem. Since it didn’t concern me directly as I am not gay, I thought it didn’t affect me. But then, I grew up in Canada, where gay marriage has been legalised. Most Canadians understand and appreciate that love is a human right. No one has the right to tell you who you can or cannot love. Marriage is merely a confirmation of that love. It’s something we take for granted. But this is not the same for Hong Kong, ingrained with traditional Chinese patriarchal values.
Opposition to same sex marriage
In Hong Kong, some Christian leaders have in the past opposed to same sex marriage or legal unions on the ground that this would disrupt the very Christian concept that God created Adam and Eve to procreate and that marriage was a sacred vow between man and woman. Yet others are quick to oppose to same sex marriage thinking that it would erode traditional family values – since homosexuals cannot procreate with each other, they must lack family values. They forget that many heterosexual couples don’t have children.
Should same sex marriage be legalised?
Same sex marriage is recognized in many Western countries. However, there has not been such consensus in Hong Kong. Perhaps we should ask ourselves – what right do we have to tell others who they can or cannot marry? What is “the law” and who decides “the law”? A legal answer is that it is decided by our legislators who pay lip service to represent their constituents. But whether same sex marriage should be legal is not so much a legal, but a moral question – whether one has the right to choose who to marry, regardless of sex.
Personally, I take no issue with other people marrying their same sex partners, because I never had a problem with homosexuals telling me that being heterosexual is wrong.