Hong Kong's Court of Final Appeal (CFA) has ruled in favour of a senior immigration officer in his battle to have his marriage to British citizen officially recognised. Angus Leung took the government to court after the Secretary for the Civil Service refused to grant spousal benefits to his husband, Scott Adams. The judgment marks a major victory for the territory's LGBT+ community.
In Leung Chun Kwong v Secretary for the Civil Service and Commissioner of Inland Revenue  HKCFA 19, the CFA considered the case of the couple who had married in New Zealand, where same-sex marriage is legal, on 18 April 2014. Leung was entitled to various medical and dental benefits which should also have been made available to his British spouse. Leung tried to update his marital status with the Civil Service Bureau but was told that the marriage was not a marriage within the meaning of Hong Kong law, so that Adams was not entitled to the spousal benefits.
In May 2015, Leung also tried to elect for joint tax assessment with his husband but was refused by the Commissioner for Inland Revenue on the basis that Leung and Adams were not husband and wife for the purposes of the Inland Revenue Ordinance. Leung challenged both decisions by way of judicial review proceedings.
The CFA said the marriage had the same characteristics of publicity and exclusivity of a heterosexual marriage which distinguished it from a mere relationship. Whilst agreeing with the respondents that the protection of the institution of marriage as defined by the laws of Hong Kong was a legitimate aim, it would be unjust to take into account the prevailing views of the local community on marriage as a relevant consideration. The Court also found the original decisions irrational and undermined by the Secretary for Justice's own equal opportunities employment policies.
Chris Dobby, Partner in Hogan Lovells Hong Kong, said "this decision will be warmly welcomed by those in the LGBT+ community in Hong Kong and around the world, and our involvement reflects our commitment to advancing the rights of same-sex couples in the fight for inclusion and marriage equality".
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.