Hong Kong’s legislature defeated a motion that would have started the first steps of the legalization process for same-sex marriage in the semi-autonomous territory of China.
Introduced by the body’s only openly gay member, Raymond Chan Chi-chuen, on Nov. 22, the vote was rejected 27 to 24.
“The government keeps avoiding studying policies for homosexual groups,” Chan was quoted as saying after the vote by the South China Morning Post. “Opponents of this motion have to explain why they reject even such a small step forward.”
The motion had sought to urge “the Government to study the formulation of policies for homosexual couples to enter into a union so that they can enjoy equal rights as heterosexual couples,” the Hong Kong government stated.
Chan’s motion was supported by amendments in Hong Kong’s legislative council from Au Nok-hin and Gary Fan Kwok-wai.
However, conservative members of the council warned equality would bring negative effects to Hong Kong.
Lawmaker Dr. Priscilla Leung Mei-fun said that the government “in its policy studies on equal rights for people of different sexual orientations … should refrain from shaking the existing marriage institution as a show of respect for the mainstream values in Hong Kong society.”
A study by the University of Hong Kong released earlier this year though found that Hong Kong society is becoming more accepting of same-sex marriage.
It found “a growing number of people in Hong Kong say they favor protecting gay and lesbian rights,” including sixty-nine percent of people believe anti-discrimination laws should be in place for gay or lesbian people — currently, there are no anti-discrimination laws protecting LGBTQ people in Hong Kong, The South China Morning Post reported.
According to the survey, 50.4 percent of people expressed agreement over same-sex marriage, up from 38 percent in 2013. Researchers also found that 78 percent of Hong Kong citizens believed that same-sex couples should have some rights like different-sex couples.
Hong Kong decriminalized homosexuality in 1991, but marriage in the city is defined as a union between one man and one woman. Though same-sex couples did score a landmark victory in September when the Hong Kong government announced same-sex couples would be entitled to spousal visa rights.
“The policy allows those who are able to provide care and financial support to their dependents to sponsor their non-local dependants to come to reside in Hong Kong,” federal authorities claimed in a statement, INTO reported at the time. The statement added that the policy would ensure domestic companies could “attract and retain people with the right talent and skills to come to and remain in Hong Kong.”
Banks such as Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs had supported the visa regulation change along with over 30 other multinational companies following a court ruling in July.
The court said it was “hard to see how the Policy’s exclusion, on grounds of sexual orientation, of persons who were bona fide dependent civil partners of sponsors granted employment visas promoted the legitimate aim of strict immigration control,” after a British national had her visa rejected after she had moved to Hong Kong with her partner.
There is no Asian country that allows recognizes same-sex marriage. Taiwan, the self-ruled island which China claims sovereignty, on Nov. 24 voted in a referendum to deny marriage rights to same-sex couples. Taiwanese citizens voted by 69 percent to ban same-sex marriage.
However, the referendum came after the Constitutional Court of the country ruled same-sex marriage must be legalized. The referendum was spearheaded by conservative groups. Lawmakers now have three months to respond to the vote.
If the Taiwanese legislature does nothing, INTO previously reported, same-sex marriage will become legal in the country on May 29, marking the two-year timetable the Court gave to legalize the unions.
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