Link with churches on rights, says EU

Local | Chan Ho-him 23 Nov 2016

Hong Kong should speed up enacting laws against discrimination of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people by seeking common ground with the religious sector, says the European Union, as a scholar called for religious exemption in the anti-discrimination ordinance.

Catholic and Protestant churches in Hong Kong have been opposing same- sex marriage and anti-discrimination laws that protect LGBT people, with some worrying such laws could cause "reverse discrimination" which may harm religious freedom.

The head of the political, press and information section of the EU Office to Hong Kong and Macao, Jolita Pons, said yesterday Hong Kong's LGBT community should reconcile with religious bodies.

"There is no contradiction between religion, for example in Catholic teaching, and the rights of LGBT," she said, citing examples of the Netherlands and Germany, which are "deeply religious but have a more liberal society in terms of respect for LGBT rights."

The enactment of the Sexual Orientation Discrimination Ordinance has been discussed in society over the past two decades, but a new consultation by the government has not yet taken place.

Meanwhile, assistant professor of the gender studies program at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Suen Yiu-tung, suggested allowing religious exemption in the anti- discrimination ordinance, so the laws "may not intervene in what's happening within churches" - for instance, the appointment of ministers. He also urged society to make clear that LGBT anti- discrimination laws and same-sex marriage are two separate issues.

The EU and the CUHK gender studies program will jointly hold a conference on LGBT rights and freedom of religion in Hong Kong next Monday. Suen said members from religious groups are invited.

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