HONG KONG Hong Kong, home to hundreds of thousands of British nationals, has blocked local residents from entering into same-sex civil unions at the British consulate, a consulate spokeswoman said Sunday.
Hong Kong’s Home Affairs Bureau told the British consulate on Tuesday that the Chinese territory wouldn’t allow same-sex couples to marry on the mission’s premises, Consulate-General spokeswoman Vanessa Gould said.
British law allows British nationals to enter civil unions with non-British nationals of the same gender at British diplomatic offices worldwide, so long as the local government doesn’t object.
Hong Kong, a Chinese territory ruled by Britain until 1997, is home to more than 200,000 British passport holders and 3.5 million more who are eligible for the British National (Overseas) passport, a travel document that doesn’t grant the right of abode.
Holders of both documents are considered British nationals under the Civil Partnership Act.
But the Hong Kong government does not consider it appropriate to agree to the registration of civil partnerships of same-sex couples at the British Consulate at present.
The Hong Kong government made the decision because locals are being consulted on the need for laws banning discrimination against gays and doesn’t want to be perceived as taking sides while the issue is being discussed, Home Affairs Bureau spokeswoman Lily Chen said.
So far Australia, Croatia, South Africa, Venezuela, Belarus, Israel, Switzerland, Vietnam, Colombia, Japan, Turkmenistan, Costa Rica and certain states in the U.S. have allowed local British diplomatic offices to conduct same-sex civil unions for their subjects.
While homosexuality isn’t outlawed in Hong Kong, it is still considered taboo.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, April 21, 2006.