Gay couples in Hong Kong win legal victory over inheritance law

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Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community.
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community.
PHOTO: Dibyangshu Sarkar, AFP
  • Hong Kong's high court has ruled that same sex couples should receive equal treatment under inheritance law.
  • In handing down judgment, the judge said the exclusion of spouses in same-sex marriages from their legal entitlements "constitutes unlawful discrimination".
  • But the victory came on the same day that a separate legal bid for full recognition of foreign same-sex marriages was struck down.


Hong Kong's high court on Friday ruled that same-sex couples should receive equal treatment under inheritance law, in a step forward for LGBT rights in the finance hub.

But the victory came on the same day that a separate legal bid for full recognition of foreign same-sex marriages was struck down, underscoring what campaigners say is a lack of progress on equality issues.

Hong Kong's law does not allow same-sex marriage and does not recognise foreign unions, though limited recognition has been granted in recent years in several landmark rulings.

Edgar Ng, a gay Hong Konger, last year launched a legal challenge against the city's inheritance and intestacy laws, alleging discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

In 2018 he bought a government-subsidised flat, a year after marrying his partner in London, according to court documents.

Under Hong Kong's housing policy, his husband cannot be recognised as the joint homeowner, and Ng was concerned that should he die without a will, his property would not be passed to his partner.

'Differential treatment not justified'

In the judgment handed down Friday, Judge Anderson Chow said the exclusion of spouses in same-sex marriages from their legal entitlements "constitutes unlawful discrimination".

The judge said "differential treatment is not justified".

LGBT rights activists with campaign group Hong Kong Marriage Equality described the ruling as an "important victory".

"The government should seize this opportunity to work with the LGBT+ community to implement marriage equality in the city," the association said.

Excitement about the legal win was tempered however by a separate ruling on Friday that rejected an application for a judicial review into Hong Kong's law on recognising overseas gay marriage.

In 2018, the city announced that overseas same-sex partners would qualify for the right to live and work in Hong Kong, but other rights are still denied to same-sex couples.

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