High court upholds gay inheritance rights - RTHK
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High court upholds gay inheritance rights

2020-09-18 HKT 17:52
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  • The court handed down a significant win for the gay community in Hong Kong, but rejected a bid to legalise same-sex marriage. File photo: RTHK
    The court handed down a significant win for the gay community in Hong Kong, but rejected a bid to legalise same-sex marriage. File photo: RTHK
Maggie Ho reports
The High Court has ruled that same-sex couples who marry overseas must be allowed to inherit each other's estates like other married couples, even if no will had been prepared.

But while handing down a significant win for LGBT rights on Friday, the court also rejected a separate bid for Hong Kong to legally recognise gay marriage, saying it’s too ambitious.

The legal challenge over inheritance was brought by Edgar Ng who married his husband in London in 2017.

When he later bought a flat under the government's Home Ownership Scheme, he found out that his husband couldn't be a joint owner and without a will, he wouldn't automatically inherit the property if Ng were to die.

During the hearing, the government had argued that giving people the right to inherit their same-sex partners’ estates would undermine the traditional institution of marriage.

Justice Anderson Chow said this was an "illogical" suggestion, and told the government to make a declaration on the re-interpretation of the relevant provisions.

Chow, however, noted the ruling does not apply to other forms of civil partnerships or civil unions.

The lawyers representing Ng said they welcome the ruling on inheritance, calling it a “significant step towards equality for same-sex couples” and a victory for the LGBT community in Hong Kong.

A pressure group set up last year to push for legislation for same-sex union, Hong Kong Marriage Equality, issued a statement saying Ng's case was "yet another victory" in the fight for LGBT rights, and a clear signal to society that unequal treatment of same-sex couples is not justified.

The group called on the government to take this opportunity to work with the LGBT community to work on marriage equality in the city.

But the group also expressed disappointment that the High Court on the same day rejected a case launched by activist Jimmy Sham, who said the SAR government should recognise his marriage with his husband in 2013 in New York.

Chow said Sham’s application was wrong in principle and too ambitious, saying that the challenge was too broad in its scope, without pinpointing any particular decisions that accord differential treatment based on sexual orientation.