Court rules denying public housing for homosexual couples unlawful

Local | 4 Mar 2020 12:35 pm

The High Court today ruled that the Housing Authority’s policy of excluding same-sex couples who have married abroad from applying for public rental housing as an "ordinary family" is unlawful and unconstitutional, in landmark win for LGBT rights in Hong Kong, RTHK reports.
The case was brought by Nick Infinger, a Hong Kong permanent resident who married his male partner, also a permanent resident, in Canada in 2018.
When Infinger later applied for public housing as an "ordinary family," the Housing Authority rejected the application, telling him that according to the Oxford English Dictionary, "husband" means "a married man especially in relation to his wife.''
After a judicial review of the authority's decision, Judge Anderson Chow found that the policy violates Basic Law Article 25, which says Hong Kong residents shall be equal before the law, and Article 22 of the Bill of Rights, which states that everyone is entitled to equal protection against discrimination on any grounds.
"Other than the fact that the applicant’s marriage with the partner are between two persons of the same sex, the Housing Authority has not been able to point to any difference between their marriage and other foreign opposite-sex marriages which it would accept for the purpose meeting the eligibility criterion," Chow said.
He also rejected the suggestion that the authority would have trouble in assessing whether such same-sex partnerships were genuine.
"I am unable to see why it would be more administratively inconvenient or difficult to verify the validity or genuineness of a foreign same-sex marriage when compared to a foreign opposite-sex marriage," he said.
"I am also not impressed by the argument that there are differing, complicated, and rapidly evolving concepts of same-sex marriage and civil partnership/union across various foreign jurisdictions, including those … involving substantially different legal and governmental systems than those of Hong Kong" .
"Overall, I conclude that the Housing Authority is unable to justify the differential treatment under the spousal policy in the present case".
Chow said the couple's application for public housing was therefore remitted to the Housing Authority once again for fresh consideration.

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