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Hong Kong's high court rules that transsexuals can marry

May 13, 2013

A transgendered woman has won the right to marry her boyfriend in Hong Kong. The five member panel of The Court of Final Appeal ruled four to one on Monday in favor of a woman who has been identified only as W.

Support of equality
"The right to marry guaranteed by our constitution extends to the right of a post-operative transsexual to marry in the reassigned capacity," said the majority ruling, according to the BBC. "In present-day multi-cultural Hong Kong where people profess many different religious faiths or none at all... procreation is no longer [if it ever was] regarded as essential to marriage."

The decision to allow post-operative transsexuals the right to marry brings the law in the semi-autonomous Chinese city state into line with legislation in mainland China, several European Union nations, New Zealand and Canada among others, reports The Guardian.

W had sex reassignment surgery in a public Hong Kong hospital five years ago. The marriage registry had refused to grant her and her boyfriend a marriage license on the grounds that her birth certificate, which cannot legally be changed in Hong Kong, still reflected that she was male and two men cannot marry in the city-state. Hong Kong's Supreme Court rejected W's case in 2010 on the grounds that there was not "shifted societal consensus in Hong Kong," and that the definition of marriage did not include couples with post-operative transsexuals.

W responded to the new decision by the Court of Final Appeal, saying in a statement that she was happy that the court had righted a wrong in the law. 

This newest ruling by the court does not affect the status of gay marriage in Hong Kong, which remains illegal.

Disagreement with the new ruling
Though the ruling has generated wide support among human rights activists around the world who hail the decision as a victory for marriage equality, there are some concerned about the ruling.

Permanent Judge Patrick Chan, the one judge on the panel who voted against the ruling, noted that changing the definition of marriage to include transgendered people in their newly assigned gender was a fundamental shift in the traditional concept of marriage.

There was hope among those who support the ruling that this decision would help push the government in Hong Kong towards greater acceptance of sexual minorities. Though W has won the right to marry, the court has ordered a 12 month waiting period while before she can do so. During that time changes to marriage laws will be made to accommodate her situation.

Those interested in marriage equality in Hong Kong and beyond should grab an international calling card and start discussing it with friends and family.

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