A bid by LGBTQ+ activist Jimmy Sham for Hong Kong to recognise overseas same-sex marriages has been denied in court.

Sham married his partner in 2013 and has advocated for overseas same-sex marriages to be recognised in Hong Kong for the last five years.

On 24 August, the region’s Court of Appeal declared Hong Kong will only recognise heterosexual marriages.

The judgement stated marriage is “a voluntary union for life of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.”

It continued: “The drafters of the Basic Law must have only used the term ‘marriage’ in Basic Law 37 in the traditional sense of being a union between a heterosexual couple. Any suggestion otherwise is divorced from reality.”

Sham is one of multiple activists in jail awaiting prosecution due to a new national security law.


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His lawyer, Hector Pun, claimed that the exclusion of same-sex marriages violated equal rights.

Pun referred to article 37 of the Basic Law, which stated: “The freedom of marriage of Hong Kong residents and their right to raise a family freely shall be protected by law.”

He stressed the use of ‘residents’ instead of men and women did not exclude same-sex people from the institution of marriage.

However, this argument was dismissed by the court in its ruling.

“In conclusion, when properly interpreted, Basic Law 37 only provides access to the institution of marriage to heterosexual couples. It does not include same-sex couples,” read the judgement.

Sham raised his first judicial review in 2018.

Although the Court of First Instance rejected his bid, he appealed in July this year.

Sham has not confirmed if he will appeal again.