An activist imprisoned in Hong Kong has launched his final appeal to have his marriage to another man recognized

Jimmy Sham (REUTERS/Tyrone Siu) (TYRONE SIU/)

An activist detained in Hong Kong on Wednesday launched his final appeal seeking the recognition of your same-sex marriage registered abroadin a historic case for the city’s LGBTQ+ community.

Jimmy Sham, a leading pro-democracy activist during the 2019 protests that rocked Hong Kong, first sought judicial review five years ago seeking a ruling that the city’s laws, which do not recognize marriages between persons of the same sex abroad, violate their constitutional right to equality. But lower courts threw out his legal challenge and a subsequent appeal of the case.

Sham is now in custody after being accused of subversion for an unofficial primary election under a strict national security law enacted after the protests. Many other prominent Hong Kong activists have also been arrested or silenced by the law imposed by Beijing on the former UK colony.

The city’s upcoming high court trial in their marriage case will have strong implications for the life of the LGBTQ+ community and the financial center’s reputation as an inclusive place to live and work.

At the moment, the city only recognizes same-sex marriages for certain purposes, such as taxes, civil service benefits, and dependent visas. Many of the government’s concessions have been obtained through legal challenges in recent years.

Sham is the former coordinator of the Civil Human Rights Front (REUTERS / Thomas Peter)
Sham is the former coordinator of the Civil Human Rights Front (REUTERS / Thomas Peter) (THOMAS PETER /)

The court will need to address whether the exclusion of same-sex couples from the institution of marriage and the failure to provide alternative means of legal recognition for same-sex unions violate the right to equality. Judges will also have to decide whether the city’s laws violate that right enshrined in Hong Kong’s constitution, as they do not recognize foreign same-sex marriages.

On Wednesday, Sham appeared animated inside the courtroom. His followers wished him a happy birthday as this week he was 36 years old.

His lawyer, Karon Monaghan, argued that the absence of same-sex marriages in Hong Kong sent the message that it is less worthy of recognition than heterosexual marriages.

But Stewart Wong, a lawyer representing the government, said another law under the constitution guarantees access to marriage only for heterosexual couples. The court will continue hearing the case on Thursday.

Sham and her husband married in New York in 2013.. They wanted to get married in Hong Kong, but the law did not allow it, according to previous rulings.

The 2020 ruling said that their marriage lacks essential validity, because the city law does not allow same-sex marriage. He added that Sham’s attempt to achieve full recognition parity between foreign same-sex marriages and foreign heterosexual marriages is “overly ambitious.”

Sham’s appeal in the case was also dismissed last August.

Sham is the former coordinator of the Civil Human Rights Front who was best known for organizing the annual march on the anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover to the Chinese regime on July 1, 1997, for years. The group also organized some of the largest political protests to rock the city in 2019.

The front was disbanded in 2021 as it reportedly faces a police investigation for a possible violation of the security law.

In February, the high court ruled that full sex reassignment surgery should not be a prerequisite for transgender people to change their gender on their official identity documents. Supporters said it was a major milestone for the transgender community in Hong Kong.

(With information from AP)

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