Over 50% of Hongkongers now support same-sex marriage: HKU study

July 04, 2018 13:36
The study finds a relatively lower acceptance of homosexuals compared with the wider support for the view that same-sex couples should have at least some of the rights enjoyed by heterosexual couples. Photo: Reuters

Hong Kong people's attitude toward homosexual rights has changed significantly in recent years, with the majority of the population now supporting same-sex marriage, a University of Hong Kong study shows.

The results of the study were released just a day before the Court of Final Appeal issued a landmark ruling on Wednesday upholding a British lesbian’s right to get a dependent's visa for her partner.

According to a survey conducted by the HKU Centre for Comparative and Public Law (CCPL) last year, 50.4 percent of the respondents said same-sex couples should be allowed to marry, compared with just 38 percent in a similar survey in 2013.

Also, 69 percent said Hong Kong should have a law against sexual orientation discrimination, compared with 58 percent five years ago.

The study, based on phone interviews with 1,437 people from mid-May to early June last year, also found that 78 percent agreed that homosexual couples should have some or all of the rights enjoyed by heterosexual couples, compared with 73 percent in 2013.

Those rights included hospital visitation rights, protection from housing discrimination, ability to sue for wrongful death, inheritance rights, and homosexual marriage.

The positive answers from respondents, as far as these rights are concerned, recorded a 6 to 14 percent increase compared with a similar survey in 2013.

Between the time of the two surveys, the highest courts of the United States and Taiwan had both ruled that it is unconstitutional to exclude same-sex couples from marriage.

Major developments on the issue, as reported by media, may have contributed to the shift in the Hong Kong public's opinion, the study said.

The research also suggested that “Hong Kong’s pattern of change comports with the majoritarian global pattern of growing acceptance”.

“Our study also illuminates a discrepancy between law and public opinion,” said Professor Kelley Loper, the director of CCPL.

“While 69 percent of Hong Kong people said they favor having a law to protect against sexual orientation discrimination, the government of Hong Kong has yet to enact such legislation,” she said.

In its decision, the Court of Final Appeal unanimously dismissed the appeal by the immigration director against a lower court’s ruling, saying the director was wrong to deny the woman, known as QT in court, a dependent visa as her civil partnership is not recognized in Hong Kong, public broadcaster RTHK reported.

Professor Holning Lau from the University of North Carolina, one of the leaders of the CCPL research, said: “Our research suggests that the majority of Hong Kong people support the same-sex couple in the [QT v. Director of Immigration] case.”

The study also contradicted an earlier statement from the Court of Appeal that the majority of Hong Kong people were firmly against same-sex marriage, which was actually based on an older survey.

That court had ruled against a gay couple’s right to claim civil servant spousal benefits in the Leung Chun Kwong v. Secretary for the Civil Service case last month.

“Still, if we assume arguendo that public opinion is relevant to rights adjudication, our 2017 data calls into question the Court of Appeal’s ruling in [the Leung Chun-kwong case],” the report concluded.

The couple said they were considering an appeal to the Court of Final Appeal.

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