The Hong Kong Legislative Council on Thursday rejected a motion that could have paved the way to legalizing same-sex unions, in a region where no nation allows gay or lesbian couples to marry.
The measure, which would have urged the government to consider granting “equal rights” to same-sex couples, was rejected by 27 votes to 24, with six abstentions, the council said on its Web site.
“The government keeps avoiding studying policies for homosexual groups,” the South China Morning Post quoted gay Hong Kong Legislator Raymond Chan (陳志全), who proposed the motion, as saying.
“Opponents of this motion have to explain why they reject even such a small step forward,” he said.
No nations in Asia currently allow same-sex couples to marry or enter civil unions of any kind.
Socially conservative attitudes prevail across the region and opponents of same-sex marriage have said that such unions could destroy society and family institutions.
Homosexuality was decriminalized in 1991 in Hong Kong, which is more supportive of LGBT rights than China. However, marriage is legally defined as a monogamous union between a man and a woman and same-sex marriage is not recognized.
Hong Kong in September said it would recognize overseas same-sex partnerships when granting dependent visas, a move that was supported by global banks and law firms operating in the former British colony.
Chan’s motion would have urged the territory’s government “to study the formulation of policies for homosexual couples to enter into a union so that they can enjoy equal rights as heterosexual couples.”
Legislator Priscilla Leung (梁美芬) opposed Chan’s motion on the grounds that Hong Kong should keep marriage between men and women and “refrain from shaking existing marriage institutions.”
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