A transsexual woman in Hong Kong won a groundbreaking court appeal allowing her to marry her boyfriend and forcing the government to re-write the city’s marriage laws.
The woman in her 30s, known in the Court of Final Appeal as “W” under anonymity rules, overturned earlier verdicts that said marriage is only allowed between couples who were of the opposite sex at birth.
W, who underwent sex realignment surgery more than five years ago, argued that her post-operative gender is recognised by the law and that previous rulings were a violation of her constitutional rights. She also said that her re-assignment surgery had been government-subsidised.
The city’s Registrar of Marriages had argued she could not wed her boy-friend because her birth certificate — which cannot be altered under Hong Kong law — said she was male.
“It is contrary to principle to focus merely on biological features fixed at the time of birth,” the court said in a written judgment by the panel of five judges.
It added that existing laws “impair the very essence of W’s right to marry”.
The court said the nature of marriage as a social institution had “undergone far-reaching changes” in a multi-cultural present-day Hong Kong.
“The effect of this decision is that W will be allowed to marry, and should be allowed to marry her boyfriend,” lawyer for W, Michael Vidler, told reporters after the ruling was announced. “This is a case about sexual minorities being recognised and that their rights are just as important as everyone else’s,” Vidler said of what he called a “landmark decision”.
W, who was not in court, said in a statement read by Vidler: “I have lived my life as a woman and been treated as a woman in all respects except as regards to my right to marry. This decision rights that wrong.”
The court will suspend the decision for 12 months allowing time for the government to amend the city’s marriage laws.
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