The Hong Kong 10% Club was established in 1986 to fight equality in legal protection and recognition against social discrimination on lesbian, bisexual and gay (LGB) people.
The focus of Horizons is to provide support services for the gay, lesbian and bisexual community and education services for the community at large.
September 24, 2003
Toronto marriage bound for Hong Kong
We first met Roddy Shaw, a 36-year-old student and human rights activist, in Turin, Italy, last year when we spoke at a conference hosted by the International Lesbian and Gay Law Association. Roddy had travelled from Hong Kong to be with other advocates and lawyers from around the world who had convened to talk about "marriage, partnerships and parenting in the 21st century." His interest was both professional and personal.
After first embarking on a career path in Information Technology, Roddy switched his focus and obtained a master of law degree in human rights. Along the way, he became involved with gay community groups, where he met Nelson Ng, a physical therapist with a theology degree.
"Around 10 years ago," Nelson recently told us, "I was in a group called the Hong Kong Ten Per Cent Club and [a founder of] Blessed Minority Christian Fellowship. At that time Roddy was in Horizons, another service-oriented gay group. This gave us a lot of chances to meet each other in different coalition meetings. After about 4 years, we decided to go together."
The couple created new opportunities to pursue their mutual interest in advancing human rights in their community.
"We started a group called Civil Rights For Sexual Diversities, a rights-based organization," Roddy told us. "We handle cases of discrimination and people being impacted by laws because of their sexual orientation, gender identity or HIV status."
We first learned of the couple's interest in same-sex marriage last year, in Turin. While the first Ontario court decision was still pending, we speculated with Roddy about the possibility of equal marriage arriving in Canada. If it happened, Roddy said he'd be on a Canada-bound plane with Nelson.
The couple arrived last week to obtain a marriage licence from city hall (photo at right). They were married in a United Church on September 16 amidst Canadian and Chinese media.
"The fact that we got married legally in Ontario means that the Hong Kong government has to recognize our marriage, because it is a civil marriage that is required by Hong Kong law to be recognized in Hong Kong, for the different purposes of social policies, tax breaks, inheritances, and all other legal protections. The most immediate effect for us will be the possibility of legal reform in Hong Kong," said Roddy.
The personal desire to define their relationship through marriage is by nature also a political act. But the couple maintains a balance.
"We still have this sparkle in our lives and our love and our relationship," Roddy said. "To us personally, marriage is a very important thing. It is a commitment and also a statement to the world and our friends and family that we intend to be together. Politically it is particularly important because we see this as a potential precedent to Hong Kong law. If our marriage is recognized, the Hong Kong government may as well consider having their own marriage regime allow same-sex couples."
But the couple has no illusions about the road ahead. Like Canada, a small percentage of vocal conservatives are expected to provide strong resistance.
Nelson said about 10% of the population of Hong Kong identifies itself as Christian, with the majority of churches being either "evangelical if not fundamental ... A lot of the social welfare stuff is given to the church, so they really have a lot of power and authority in asking for social policies. They are very influential ... although a lot of people are not religious, but they will follow what the church is advocating."
Nelson's background in theology and Roddy's interest in law will help them navigate the obstacles ahead. They plan to return to home exercise their rights as a married couple.
"We may apply to the In-land Revenue department in Hong Kong for tax considerations," Roddy said.
The pair tried a similar approach with a civil union from Vermont.
"The department said, 'No this is not a marriage," Roddy said. "So this time we will come back with a marriage certificate that says, 'Marriage'! We've got this legal status called married. We've been struggling with this ambiguous status for a long time. "