The rainbow after rain?

Same-sex marriage legalization is under the spotlight again

When Mr Ice finally mustered up his courage to walk down the dimly lit passage of an old building on Nathan Road and into its worn out lift, he had lost count of the number of times he had strolled past it without stepping inside.

Even after he had got out of the lift on reaching the seventh floor, he was still filled with trepidation, pausing to make sure that no one was watching him before pressing the bell next to a door on which a rainbow has been painted.

Recounting his first visit to Rainbow of Hong Kong, Mr Ice, not his real name, is glad that he had made that crucial decision to join one of a few clubs set up by members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in the city.

He said it was beyond his wildest expectation that he had since found his Mr Right and other friends with the same sexual orientation at the club.

He said that the organisation had coloured his life and he no longer felt ashamed of his homosexuality. He now even feels natural when walking hand in hand with the boy he loves, although he seldom mentions the relationship to his family to avoid endless quarrels.

When it comes to the issue of marriage, Mr Ice was hoping to form a family with his boyfriend, if the latter also wished to do so.

According to Mr Stephen Palmquist, philosophy professor at Hong Kong Baptist University, Mr Ice would encounter no problem if he marries his boyfriend in a "spiritual sense". However, if they want to officially register as ''husband and wife", enormous obstacles can be foreseen due to a lack of "social acceptability".

"The nature of marriage is trying to combine or maximise sexuality and friendship between two people, which has no distinction between homosexual or heterosexual relationship," Mr Palamuist said.

He believed the biggest difference only lay in the fact that homosexual couples could not reproduce in a natural way, which left them with no way other than adoption.

"It was of no good to the growth of the adoptees, since the children cannot fully understand the concept of family," said Ms Priscilla Leung Mei-fun, the newly-elected chairperson of the legal services panel in the Legislative Council.

The lawmaker did not think the time was ripe to legalise same-sex marriage, echoing the reservations of Mr Raymond Tam Chi-yuen, Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, who said the recognition would involve "fundamental values" and "complicated matters" months ago.

Neither of them could see any possibility of the society reaching a consensus on the issue in the near future.

"The mainstream values of society do not encourage people to become homosexual," Ms Leung said.

She added that the legalisation of same-sex marriage had nothing to do with human rights, since the topic was not covered by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights or the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Instead, both documents suggested the issue be handled in accordance with local conditions.

Mr Jimmy Sham Tsz-kit, executive officer of Rainbow of Hong Kong, said his prime concern was to call for a law against discrimination on the ground of sexuality, whereas same-sex marriage legalisation was not on his agenda.

He thought that the fairness brought by an anti-discrimination law was much more valuable and necessary than giving homosexual couples the same privileges of heterosexual couples. "We are urging the elimination of those radical, irrational prejudices, such as unemployment simply due to sexual orientation," he added.

"We are helping ourselves indeed," said the officer who is a transgender, and a volunteer who helps the LGBT members to apply for public housing and Comprehensive Social Security Assistance, and contact lawyers with expertise in dealing with sexuality discrimination.

Although Mr Ice's marriage dream might be too far to reach for now, he was quite satisfied with the increasing acceptance of different sexualities among Hong Kong people.

"When I first distributed rainbow leaflets, I could always hear some people murmuring the F word, after they found that the content inside is against their belief. Now, there are people who still do not buy our idea, and reject our leaflets by saying 'No, thanks'. But at least some say 'thanks' or simply smile to me, which make me feel warm," said Mr Ice, with tears in his eyes.

 

Reported by Song Cheng 

Edited by Jim Wong

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