In a landmark ruling, a Hong Kong court has ruled that same-sex married couples have the same right to rent or purchase a flat as heterosexual couples.
The judgement, issued on Wednesday, overturned a previously ruling which denied a same-sex couple the opportunity to rent a flat jointly.
Hong Kong’s Equal Opportunities Commission, which intervened in the case, welcomed the judgement, calling it a “significant step forward” for advancing the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.
The ruling sets an important precedent for LGBT rights in the territory, said professor Michael Davis, an expert on Hong Kong’s legal system.
The ruling means the definition of “spouse” in Hong Kong’s Sex Discrimination Ordinance now includes same-sex couples and provides the same rights under the law.
While the judgement does not directly address the issue of same-sex marriage, it shows that the courts in Hong Kong do recognise same-sex relationships, Davis said.
“It’s an important sign that the Hong Kong courts are prepared to recognise the relationships of same-sex couples,” he said. “It’s a step forward in terms of recognising the rights of (LGBT) people in Hong Kong.”
The judgement has been widely praised by LGBT rights activists, who have welcomed the ruling as a step in the right direction.
It is hoped that the judgement will lead to other legislation being passed to provide greater protections and rights for LGBT people in the territory.