The plaintiff, a British national, applied for a Hong Kong visa as a dependent of her same-sex partner, who was in Hong Kong on a work visa. The plaintiff and her partner had entered into a civil partnership in England. The Director of Immigration rejected the plaintiff’s application on the grounds that the term “spouse” in the spousal dependent visa policy was limited to the concept of marriage as defined under Hong Kong law, recognizing only the union of a man and a woman. The court found that the director acted unlawfully by not granting dependent visas to the same-sex spouses of holders of work visas. It did not, however, hold that Hong Kong law recognized same-sex marriage.
Women and Justice: Keywords
Domestic Case Law
The plaintiff, a gay man, challenged the government’s denial of spousal benefits to his husband. The couple had been married in New Zealand. The court observed that Hong Kong law does not recognize same-sex marriage; the Marriage Ordinance defines marriage as “the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.” The court concluded that the government’s denial of spousal benefits therefore did not violate the Basic Law, Bill of Rights, or common law. The plaintiff plans to appeal to Hong Kong’s highest court, the Court of Final Instance.
After a Methodist Church minister (applicant) announced to her congregation her intention to marry her same-sex partner, the Methodist Church (respondent) suspended and subsequently discontinued her role as an ordained minister in early 2010. In March 2010, the applicant referred the matter to arbitration according to the Laws and Discipline of the Church. The parties could not agree on the applicant’s procedural rights and the arbitration convener proceeded with the process as provided by the Laws and Discipline of the Church. On her behalf, the convener then entered into a final agreement with the Church in May 2011. In 2012, the applicant approached the Western Cape High Court, Cape Town seeking an order to set aside the arbitration agreement in terms of the Arbitration Act. She contended that she was unfairly discriminated against on the basis of her sexual orientation. The High Court held that the applicant had not shown good cause to set aside the arbitration agreement. She then appealed to the Supreme Court of Appeal. The majority judgment of that Court agreed with the finding of the High Court. The applicant sought leave to appeal to the Constitutional Court. In a unanimous judgment, the Constitutional Court made four findings. First, the applicant had not shown good cause to set aside the arbitration agreement. Because the issue related to interpretation of religious doctrine, arbitration would be the appropriate forum. Second, since the applicant had unequivocally disavowed her unfair discrimination claim before the High Court, she was not free to raise the claim for the first time on appeal. Third, pursuant to the principle of constitutional subsidiarity, the applicant should have first brought her unfair discrimination claim to the Equality Court. Finally, the applicant failed to file a notice in terms of the Uniform Rules of the High Court, an omission that deprived other interested parties including religious communities of the opportunity to intervene as parties to the dispute or seek admission as amicus curiae in the High Court. The Court accordingly dismissed the appeal.
On May 14, 2013, the National Justice Council issued a resolution stating that competent authorities are not allowed to refuse (a) to celebrate same-sex civil marriages nor (b) to convert same-sex common-law marriages (stable union) into civil marriages. The National Justice Council is a public administrative body that aims to advance the work of the Brazilian judicial system. The resolution was issued after the Supreme Court declared in 2011 that it is unconstitutional to apply a different legal treatment to same-sex common-law marriages (stable union), from the one applied to heterosexual common-law marriages (stable union).