A proposed amendment to Hong Kong’s sex discrimination ordinance is aimed at extending employment benefits to de facto couples, not encouraging same-sex marriage, Ming Pao Daily reported Monday.
The change will benefit many Hong Kong couples who have been living together but are not married, Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) chief York Chow was quoted as saying.
The proposal requires employers to extend benefits to spouses in de facto marriages, including those in same-sex relationships, the report said.
At present, sex discrimination laws in Hong Kong only provide protection to couples based on marital status.
Also, the amendment will redefine “family status” to “family responsibility” to avoid discriminating against people in de facto marriages who care for relatives.
Chow said the EOC has no stance on same-sex marriage but acknowledged it is a growing trend. He said the agency will work on issues relating to discrimination against sexual orientation before tackling same-sex marriage.
Meanwhile, the Family Alliance criticized the proposal, saying it moves Hong Kong closer to same-sex marriage.
Stanley Lau, chairman of the Federation of Hong Kong Industries, said the government should clarify the definition of marriage and set a minimum period of cohabitation in order for a spouse in a facto marriage to qualify for benefits.
If the amendment is approved, it will create a financial burden for employers, he said.
Choi Chi-sum, general secretary of the Society for Truth and Light, said the proposed change disrespects the institution of marriage.
And his Big Love Alliance counterpart, Brian Leung, said it will make no difference because many people in de facto marriages and same-sex relationships are unwilling to come out.
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