If your government pays for your gender identity therapy, and gender reassignment surgery, shouldn’t your government also recognize your new gender status? And, as such, let you marry someone who is, now, your opposite sex? A riveting lawsuit in Hong Kong is about to determine just that.
The MTF transgender plaintiff, who remains anonymous, wants to marry her boyfriend. But even though the Hong Kong government paid for her reassignment surgery, technically she remains “male” under the Chinese city’s eyes because of the Births and Deaths Registration Ordinance, which prohibits sex changes on citizens’s birth certificates. And that’s what Hong Kong’s Registrar of Marriage points to, refusing to let these two “men” get married. (Bizarrely, as the Asia Times notes, “To complicate matters further, the Immigration Department accepts applications for changes related to a person’s identity, including gender changes, on Hong Kong identity cards and passports.”)
The plaintiff’s attorney Michael Vidler says his twentysomething client is being discriminated against, and that Hong Kong’s government — which has yet to add LGBTs to anti-discrimination laws — is violating her civil rights by “disregard[ing]” his client’s gender therpay and reassignment.
Remarkably, the city’s High Court, which only a few years ago almost assuredly would have dismissed out of hand his request for a judicial review of the registrar’s decision, accepted the case. While that is in no way an indication that Vidler and his client will win, it is nevertheless a notable development in jurisprudence in Hong Kong – a city that, 12 years after the handover from British to Chinese rule, still takes pride in its independent judiciary and its support of individual rights. Those rights are enshrined in Hong Kong’s constitution, called the Basic Law, negotiated by the British and the Chinese prior to the handover.