LGBT rights take great leap forward, thanks to scuba divers

June 6, 2019

Scott Adams looks on as his husband Angus Leung addresses reporters. 

 

In a landmark ruling made earlier today, the Court of Final Appeal made the decision to grant Scott Adams and his husband Angus Leung the same status as that afforded to opposite-sex marriages, at least in the eyes of the taxman.

 

Adams and Leung are now entitled to spousal benefits and joint tax assessment, in a sensational win that is undoubtedly resonating in Hong Kong's burgeoning LGBT community and beyond.

 

As a society still regarded as socially conservative in its outlook, Hong Kong has traditionally been begrudging in terms of adopting LGBT rights and enforcing anti-discrimination legislation, only recently moving to launch campaigns promoting equal treatment between people of different sexual orientations in the workplace.


Today thus marks another watershed moment not only for Hong Kong legislation, but for the LGBT community and not least in the couple's 15-year long relationship. 

 

Photo courtesy of Scott Adams 

 

Both avid scuba divers and qualified diving instructors, the pair met online in 2004 and decided to tie the knot in New Zealand - one of 27 countries in the world that have formally enshrined same-sex marriage in their constitution.  

 

Addressing a large press turnout - hours after returning from their latest scuba diving trip in Mexico on short notice from the Court, Adams and Leung were "excited, happy and blessed" upon hearing the judgement.

 

"It's been four years of hard work to achieve today's result and it has placed lots of pressure on our families," said Leung. 

 

"As everyday citizens, we shouldn't have to go through such an arduous process just to secure a basic familial right and we hope the government will review and change its laws and policies to ensure there is no such further discrimination." 

 

The couple were a united front as they faced the judiciary, and now the press. 

 

While the official line with regards to such issues continues to be that of reticence, encapsulated by Chief Executive Carrie Lam's unanswered invitation to appear at the 2018 Hong Kong Pride, there is a sense that a shift in perception is nonetheless taking place from the ground-up.

 

Take Cathay Pacific's "Go Beyond" campaign featuring a same-sex male couple with interlocked hands for instance, which was initially maligned by both MTR and the Airport Authority and later reinstated across MTR stations and Hong Kong International Airport following a public outcry. 

 

For Adams, also a pilot for the Hong Kong carrier, today's achievement is only the beginning of a long journey. 

 

"Taiwan has just announced marriage equality, which is the ultimate recognition of a same-sex relationship. From that, everything else should follow." he said. 

 

"Thailand is now talking about it and Japan is going through it at the moment and Hong Kong still has a way to go, but there's nothing in the bill of rights that prevents same-sex marriages and we hope the government does it themselves without going through the court system." 

 

Could it only be a matter of time before same-sex marriage is given equal weight? 

 

Leung was in agreement. 

 

"The ruling addresses the fundamentals of the constitution and human freedoms, which should certainly include sexual minorities." said Leung, who works as an immigration officer. 

 

"It should be protected by various legal provisions in Hong Kong, so I think this was a very important point in our judgement today."

 

However, Adams chooses to look beyond the ostensible benefits that ruling brings, which includes tax deduction and benefits. 

 

"What we're planning for is the future - we want to have the same family planning just like anybody else and make sure we can look after each other in the future." said the 39-year-old. 

 

"We are very thankful to many members of society for their support and for understanding that the love we have for each other is no different from anyone else's." his husband added. 

 

 

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