Delay for gay ruling rejected

Local | Stella Wong 28 Feb 2019

The government's bid to put on hold the case of a gay married couple challenging their ineligibility for public housing was rejected by the Court of First Instance yesterday.

The men, who are permanent Hong Kong residents, got married in Canada last January and returned to Hong Kong to apply for public housing under the category of "ordinary family" in March.

But the Housing Authority rejected their application as their relationship does not fit the definition of "husband and wife," which refers to a heterosexual couple.

In November, one of the men, Nick Infinger, 25, launched a judicial review against the authority for turning down their application. He argued that the rejection was discriminatory and unconstitutional under the Hong Kong Bill of Rights and the Basic Law.

The High Court had earlier granted leave for the case to be heard.

But the authority applied for a stay of proceedings, asking for the case to be put on hold to wait for the results of two other court cases, which have a "decisive effect" on this case.

One of the two cases sees senior immigration officer Angus Leung Chun-kwong fighting for same civil servant spousal benefits for his husband Scott Adams and the right to jointly declare their tax.

The Court of First Instance originally ruled in favor of Leung on the benefits issue, though he lost the taxation challenge. But the Court of Appeal later overturned the lower court's ruling on the benefit issues, meaning that Leung lost on both issues.

Leung then took the case to the Court of Final Appeal, which scheduled a hearing for May.

The other case involves a 29-year-old lesbian, known as MK, seeking a civil union partnership system. The hearing will start in May at the Court of First Instance.

Judge Anderson Chow Ka-ming agreed that Leung's case has reference value for this case, but he said the result of MK's case would not have a critical impact on this case, thus the court should not wait for the judgment in MK's case.

He rejected the authority's application to put the case on hold yesterday, saying this case "involves great and general importance" and should not be delayed.

Chow added that regardless of the results of the two cases, the court will handle this case according to the environment and the standard when the applicant lodged the claim.

He said the proceedings will be held between July and December.

The court ordered the authority to bear the legal cost of this session. It granted the authority an extension of 28 days to file a defense, which is on or before March 27.

Last year, the top court ruled in favor of a lesbian expatriate, known as QT, requiring immigration authorities to grant same-sex partners spousal visas previously available only to heterosexual couples. But same-sex marriage or civil unions are not currently recognized in Hong Kong.

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